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South Bend continues push for diversity in public safety

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diversity in South Bend’s ranks is still a top priority for Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Ahead of a multi-department public safety job fair scheduled for Thursday, he and several department heads are encouraging minority communities to participate.

“The closer that our administration, including our departments, come to reflecting the community as a whole, the better off we’re going to be,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Diversity and inclusion in the ranks.

For years, South Bend’s public safety departments have been intentional about solving that problem, all while facing broader issues of hiring.

South Bend Fire plans for 257 firefighters in the 2018 budget.

There are now four vacancies and it expects up to 25 fighters to retire by the year’s end.

South Bend Police would like to see 247 sworn officers.

It’s about 16 short of that goal now.

“It’s no secret that the police department is having trouble recruiting, that’s the bad news,” said South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruzskowski.

Chief Ruzskowski says there is good news.

The department received hundreds of new applicants this year.

But there’s more bad news.

“I know from past empirical data, our applicants do not mirror our communities,” said Chief Ruzskowski.

He says neither does the force.

Minorities make up 14 percent of sworn officers and about 5 percent of firefighters in the city.

Both department heads believe the answer to this problem won’t come to them, they’ll have to go to it.

“We’ve also gotten out to the community, into the targeted communities where we’d like to increase our outreach,” said Chief Steve Cox of the South Bend Fire Department.

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