Coalition to confront city council on under representation of African Americans

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The Jonesboro City Council meeting took place Tuesday night and the Diversity Coalition of Jonesboro was in attendance to present a concern. While the coalition says the city hasn't broken any state of federal laws, they are encouraging the city to go beyond the minimal standards in minority recruitment within city departments.

It was a larger crowd than normal at the Jonesboro City Council Meeting as the Diversity Coalition of Jonesboro came forward with a clear message to city officials in regards to the fire and police departments.

"The hiring of minorities and women in these departments is unfinished business," said George Grant with the Diversity Coalition.

While the Coalition praises the department on their efforts of public safety, members of the group went as far as saying the absence of minorities in the city police and fire department is as conspicuous now as it was during the civil rights movement.

"It's at a time when cities over the entire United States has achieved diversity in these two departments. In fact, many cities have minorities and women who have promoted to chief," said Grant.

The City Council was approached by the coalition back in November and were initially interested in hearing their ideas.

"Until yesterday I was optimistic that your group might help offer some positive insight, but then I got this flier," said one Council member.

Fliers that were passed out Monday at various MLK event around town, as well as an article printed in the newspaper. All with information council members say mis-represents several of the facts.

"It suggests that only 1.4% of the police department is a minority. That didn't address the civilian force, 77% of which are women and 23% which are African Americans," said a council member.

And as the meeting went on, things got a little heated.  "The group claimed not to have received all the information that they had requested, which I think had cast a cloud over the city like we have something to hide. If there is something else that you did not receive, I'd like you to tell us," reply a member on the council.

Members says the coalition should have received the answers to their earlier requests dated November 15th.

"Now to whom was that addressed to and when? I have not seen answers to questions," said Grant.

The coalition did introduce 10 recommendations for the city to consider, which council members say 7 of the 10 have already been implemented. And after about 45 minutes going back and forth, one conclusion was clear.

"The Jonesboro diversity coalition is volunteering to work harmoniously with the city," said Grant.

Police Chief Mike Yates did come forward to say diversity is something the department has focused for the past 4 years. Members of the coalition say the do come in peace and want to work with the city. Mayor Harold Erin says it is something he does plan to address further.

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