Community group helps select future Columbus police officers and firefighters

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — How do you improve the relationship between police, firefighters and the public? The city of Columbus is trying something new. People from the community are helping make the next hires in the police and fire department.

The city has hired nine community evaluators; a diverse group from across the city. Their goal is to help make hires that better represent the communities they serve.

“We are grading them not based on their skin color, but were grading them based on the content of their character and what they have to say in their answering,” said community evaluator Janara Alfano from North Linden.

She said she feels the tension between the public and first responders.

“Just this relative distrust between the two which is really heartbreaking,” she said.

Alfano and the community evaluators work alongside firefighters and police going through hundreds of applications. Their scores are counted equally.

“It’s a different aspect, you know we look at it almost as a tunnel vision from what we do. We don’t look at it from the outside and then they come in and they have a different fresh view and it works really well. It’s a good marriage if you will,” said Lt. Chad Bair with The Columbus Fire Department.

Alfano said she hopes to help bridge the gap between the community and those who protect and serve.

“I think it’s a step. I think it’s a baby step and to me any step forward is a good step,” said Alfano.

The city received 1,800 firefighter applications. The review process wraps up June 23rd. Police applications open up July 1st. And, the evaluators get back to work in September evaluating those candidates.

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