Chattanooga program introduces minorities to careers in emergenc - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga program introduces minorities to careers in emergency services

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

There’s a new program in Chattanooga to bring more diversity to some city departments. 

It’s an internship that pays and it’s specifically designed to recruit minorities. 

Chattanooga is becoming more diverse and emergency services must keep up with the changing population. They must also hire people who can relate to the people they serve.

The Minority Outreach Program launched last year and was so successful it’s continuing this year. 

The Chattanooga Police Department had a 40% success rate in its first class.

Fifteen interns work 20 hours a week for 12 weeks and earn $15 an hour. 

They split their time between police, fire and 911. The goal is to attract employees from different backgrounds and walks of life.  

“It's definitely a great idea just for the simple fact that a lot of people want to go into different fields of emergency services and this actually gives you an opportunity to get your foot in the door and see how it actually works,” said Officer Jose Meneses.

Officer Meneses went through the program before becoming a police officer last July.

“There is a big Hispanic community just in this district that I work in and this has helped me in terms of being able to make those connections,” said Officer Meneses.

He speaks Spanish and is frequently called to districts all over the city to translate.

The Minority Outreach Program also includes many women who are interested in careers in emergency services.

"I've never been treated differently because I’m a woman at the department, I've actually been really comfortable here and it was something that I worried about and doing the internship is what made me feel so comfortable that I knew at the end of it that this is where I wanted to go,” said Alisha Chavez. 

Chavez went through the program and is entering the academy on June 9. 

Research shows when people believe police represent and understand them they trust them.

According to the department, 78% of Chattanooga’s police officers are white, 17% are black, 3% are Hispanic and the Asian population is even smaller. 

During the 2016 fiscal year, men made up 92% and women accounted for just 8% of the department.

It’s estimated that the Hispanic community could make up as much as 20% of the city’s population by 2020.

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