East Providence Fire, Police seek to recruit more women, minorities


EAST PROVIDENCE — In the mind of Elmer Pina, while the city is on the right path in terms of its minority hiring practices, it can always do more.

With applications about to be accepted for planned police and fire academies, East Providence's Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Officer is attempting to be pro-active in the recruitment of women and people of color for the valued and respected positions.

Last week, Mr. Pina convened a diverse blue-ribbon panel of local leaders (NAACP, Progreso Latino, R.I. African Alliance, State Diversity Office, etc.), inviting them to meet and discuss strategies to best recruit minorities and women into the city's public safety sector.

Of note, State Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare and State Diversity Director Cheryl Burrell participated in the meeting, seeking to entice a more diverse field of candidates into the hiring process. In addition both of the city's chiefs, fire's Oscar Elmasian and police's Joseph Tavares, will be intimately involved in the strategic planning.

"We're attempting to find the best ways for us to get out into the community and attract more women and minorities to apply for positions as police officers and firefighters," Mr. Pina explained. "We're going to do open houses. We're going to go to community events throughout Rhode Island as part of our outreach. We're going to go one-on-one in these communities. People see police officers or firefighters in uniform, but they don't know what it really takes to become one. It's our job to explain that better, and hopefully get more people involved."

Out of the roughly 100 members of both the East Providence Police and Fire Departments, 200 total, there are 25 women and minorities — seven firefighters and 18 cops. Mr. Pina's effort isn't all about increasing those who make it onto the job, but to raise people's awareness, let them know about the process so that they're cognizant of the opportunities that exist and are better prepared to be a part of it.

"We've done a pretty good job in the city, but we can always do a better job than we've done in the past," Mr. Pina said.

Two recent high-profile employment decisions in East Providence involving minorities, Police Chief Tavares' retirement and the hiring of Jay Monteiro as the new East Providence High School football coach, left Mr. Pina with mixed emotions.

"The minority community is well on its way in this city, but losing the police chief is certainly a blow. I sat on the interview panel when Chief Tavares was hired five years ago. He said he wasn't looking to be the chief for 10 years after spending 30 years in Warwick," Mr. Pina said. "His goal was to be here for five years, fix some of the problems that existed and effect some change. I think if you look back at the finished product, he was successful.

"On the football side, I also sat on that panel and I think Mr. Monteiro will bring a fresh approach to the East Providence football team. (Former) Coach (Sandy) Gorham did a wonderful job, but it seemed like it was time for a new voice. Mr. Monteiro is well-respected by his peers, the community and his students. Regardless of his ethnicity, Mr. Monteiro was the best qualified person for the job. I think he is going to do a phenomenal job."

Mr. Pina's job over the next several weeks will be in assisting the Human Resources Department with the fire and police recruitment effort. The application period for the planned police academy begins June 22 and runs through July 31. Fire department applications will be accepted from July 20 to August 28.

"There's a lot of work for us to do to get the word out there," Mr. Pina added. "We're going to be working twice as hard to get a diverse group of people involved in the process."

For more information about the fire and police department recruiting visit the East Providence Human Resources webpage here...


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.