Budget cuts put diversity training and other programs on the back burner.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- For five years now, Councilwoman Helen Rucker has asked that diversity training be a priority for the police department.
Looks like her wish has finally been granted.
A budget crunch in recent years has kept such training and other police programs on hold.
City workers, including police officers and firefighters, were laid off in 2000, but recalled recently when voters approved a 0.5 percent income tax increase to boost police and fire protection.
New officers will have to be hired to replace those who found other jobs.
Police had diversity training a few years ago, but Rucker, D-7th, said it focused more on the corporate aspect than on law enforcement.
Rucker said Fred Harris, safety-service director, was immediately cooperative when she requested the training be offered now.
"Who works with a more diverse group of people than police?" Harris said.
Requirements: Police Chief John Mandopoulos said the training must address gender, age, race and ethnicity to be effective.
Because of the job's nature, officers make enemies quickly, Mandopoulos said, and it's important they have the skills to handle people and situations as best they can.
Officers who have already been through the training will help other cops with diversity issues.
Cathy Bercheni, equal opportunity coordinator, is trying to schedule an eight-hour training session in July.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in Columbus will send a representative to head up training. There will be no cost to the city.
Also on board is Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin Casey of Youngstown Police Department's crisis intervention unit. Bercheni isn't sure what that will cost.
Rucker is a quality network representative for Delphi Packard Electric Systems, working through the International Union of Electrical Workers -- Communications Workers of America, Local 717.
She has experience with diversity issues and investigates sexual harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace.
When she asked in the past that diversity training be made available for officers, she was told "it wasn't a good time," for one reason or another.
"It's important because it protects our officers and it protects our citizens," she said.
Benefits: Harris said diversity training is important for everyone because the majority of the workforce by 2005 will likely be minorities, with middle management consisting mainly of whites.
"I would like to see diversity training for every department in this city," he said.
Rucker said virtually every big corporation and police department in the country is offering the training for employees.
Many of the city's officers act in a professional manner, Rucker said, but she's heard several complaints about cops from residents during council meetings and from those who call her and other council members.
Officers will be better able to handle everyday situations, disperse crowds and communicate with the public, which in turn, will help with investigations, Rucker said.
The city's minority populations are growing, making the need for training that much greater, she said.