Firefighters with the Lexington Fire Department put their lives on the line everyday. It's not what they do but *who* is doing it that's making headlines. The US Department of Justice is now conducting an investigation into the employment practices of the fire department.
Susan Straub, with the Lexington Mayor's Office, released a statement Monday, saying quote "There are no findings at this time. The city was made aware of the investigation in early April. Federal officials have our full cooperation and we welcome their investigation. They have told us they treat investigations of this type as confidential, and we will follow their ground rules." end quote
The Executive Director of the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, Ray Sexton, says he was shocked to hear about this investigation, "this issue that we heard about today is the first I've heard of it. Nothing has come through our office."
The department has come under fire in recent years for its lack of diversity. It even held a widely-publicized campaign to try to recruit more minorities but it appears that effort fell short. A new firefighter class starts training Tuesday and of the 26 recruits, there is one black man and one black woman, according to Major Ed Davis with the Lexington Fire Department. He says there are a total of 481 firefighters right now. Of that number, there are 23 black men, 12 woman, 1 American Indian, 1 pacific islander and 1 hispanic.
Sexton says it's not surprising that the campaign didn't result in more minority hires, "I'm not saying that anybody is guilty, or whatever, but if you have a department that's statistically predominantly white and has few minorities. Certainly, am I surprised that minorities are not applying or being hired? No, because they might feel,well, based on past practices, there's no point of me submitting an application because I will be turned down or I'm not going to be hired."
The US Department of Justice wouldn't comment any further. No word on when this investigation will be finished.
Chris Bartley, the President of the Lexington Professional Firefighters Union says he knows the department is white male dominant and the union wants more diversity but it has nothing to do with the hiring process.