At issue | March 1 Herald-Leader article, "Lack of diversity evident in latest recruit class: all white males"
The March 1 article appeared to attack the Lexington fire department's integrity by insinuating the lack of diversity in the department was in any way intentional,
I am a female firefighter in the department and have served on the most recent hiring boards. I am also the paramedic in charge of an ambulance. I would like the public to know our hiring practices are not only fair but meet a national standard. The competition for employment at the department is great, so a candidate must score exceptionally high on the test.
The process includes a written exam, a physical agility test, an oral interview, polygraph, an extensive background check and a psychological evaluation.
The physical agility test is very tough and may be difficult for some to pass. But it is what is required to perform the duties of the job. If we lowered the standards to let some pass, then we would not only be endangering the safety of the individual but the safety of that person's crew and of the public.
The written exam is passed by many applicants, so it is crucial to score high. Just because one passes the test does not guarantee employment. The written exam is 40 percent of the total score and the oral interview is 60 percent.
The hiring board is very diverse, made up of women, black males, white males and a civilian. They ask the candidates a series of questions that put them in situations similar to scenarios we face every day. They are scored on their answers. They are also scored on their education, employment history and character.
This is like any other job; candidates must prepare for it. This could mean furthering their education to be a licensed emergency medical technician or paramedic, joining the military or just being in the work force longer to show a good work history.
Instead of encouraging a person to complain about why they didn't get the job, why not let them do things that will ensure they are the most-qualified candidate? These are the type of people we are looking for: problem solvers.
We cannot change the fact that there are not many women beating down the door to become firefighters. Nor can we determine how many white males or black males apply. We can't decide who will excel on the test either. That is up to the candidate.
There is a lack of diversity almost everywhere you look. So why is the fire department under fire? How diverse is the staff at the Herald-Leader?
If we hire an individual based only on gender or race, is that not discrimination in itself?
Before you pass judgment on this department, come ride for a while and see if you are the person who can hold your composure in some of our situations. Could you drag your 250-pound partner out of a burning building? Wear 60 pounds of gear while crawling through a dark, smoking building? Or try to revive a child who has been beaten to death? Could you handle a family in turmoil after a tragedy, screaming at you because you are the only one to which they can lash out?
If you can still make important decisions during that, then by all means come and apply. Now, I leave you with this last thought: When you are fighting for your last breath, do you want to see diversity or the most-qualified candidate trying to save your life? We hire the most-qualified candidates.