Ninety percent of the city of Grand Rapids' employees were white during the 2015 fiscal year.
Equity Political Action Committee, a locally based group, is urging the city to set realistic goals on how to start hiring a workforce that accurately represents the population.
The group issued a statement Tuesday, Dec. 13, expressing serious concern over the lack of diversity in regards to recent hires made by the Grand Rapids Police Department. The department hired 10 people in total, eight of which were Caucasian and nine were male.
Mari Beth Jelks, the managing director of administrative services at GRPD, responded to the statement on Tuesday, and said, "the commitment is there,and the strategies are in place."
In the past, Jelks said the candidate pool has not been diverse due to Michigan's requirements for police officers.
"It's not just JQ public, somebody interested in law enforcement, for a police officer [position], you have to have certification that comes through the state...generally after attending a police academy," Jelks said.
Not only is the candidate pool relatively uniform, Jelks said, but it is also increasingly sparse.
"A lot of people don't understand that law enforcement is now one of the top most unpopular professions for young students going into college," Jelks said.
She said the department is doing what they can to highlight the positives of serving in the police force and that it will take time.
But Equity PAC members are asking just how long.
"I don't think the timelines are clear... we hear a lot of things like 'its going to take time' and that we cannot find minority candidates," said Equity PAC Co Chair, Jeremy Moore. "And so our question becomes well transparently what are your goals? And how long is it going to take? But also the question looms where are you looking for those minority candidates?"
Moore said Equity recognizes that this is not going to happen over night, but that there needs to be a sense of urgency.
"If not, we are going to have the same issue for the next 20 something years," Moore said.
Denavvia Mojet, an Equity PAC board member, said in anticipation of about a third of the current workforce retiring soon-- this is a crucial time to make the shift.
"We haven't heard the city set a goal [regarding equitable hiring], ever, which is the problem," Mojet said.
Both Equity members said the city of Grand Rapids has seen great success in setting and accomplishing goals in regards to other issues the city has faced.
Mojet said this is not a new issue to city leaders, and that it is time to put the same efforts toward diversifying the workplace.