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Fort Smith Policymakers Discuss Diversity Issues Within City Departments

FORT SMITH (KFSM)—City leaders say they want to bring more diversity into its departments, so a study session was held to review data and brainstorm ways to mak...

FORT SMITH (KFSM)—City leaders say they want to bring more diversity into its departments, so a study session was held to review data and brainstorm ways to make that happen.

“We have aspects of our organization that do not simply value other nationalities being in our work groups,” city director Andre Good said.

He said whether it is race, age or gender, city employees need to feel valued.

“It's going to be a cultural move that's going to have to start the process,” he said.

Directors Tracy Pennartz and Keith Lau requested to have the discussion at Tuesday’s (April 26) study session.

“We need to be looking at it,” Lau said. “We need to be conscious of it, and we need to have practices in place that will promote it.

Below is employment data for all city departments, which includes a total of 895 employees.

City Employees

Lau said this data needs to better reflect Fort Smith’s diversity as a whole.

Metro Area Demographics

“I think Ferguson, Missouri's a good example of what can happen if you're not well represented, and I think our Police Department, we need to find way to be better represented in the black community, in the Hispanic community and in the Asian community, here in Fort Smith,” Lau said.

Demographics from the Fort Smith Police Department show there are a total of 202 employees. 46 are women. Seven are black, 11 are Hispanic and 30 are classified as “other.” (You can see a full breakdown of the department’s workforce demographics here.)

The Fire Department has 152 employees. Three are women, three are black, two are Hispanic and three are Native American, according to department officials.

“We have issues, and until the board as a whole can hear these issues from our employees and constituents, it may be a while before we bring this back up,” Good said.

While firefighters and police officers have a large presence in the community, Good said the other departments need to be made a priority as well.

“We have issues,” he said, “and until the board as a whole can hear these issues from our employees and constituents it may be a while before we bring this back up.”