Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Pinellas County reaches minority hiring goals, but Sheriff's Office isn't there yet, feds say

Pinellas County will soon be relieved from a decades-old agreement that required the county to bolster the number of minorities and women in its workforce.

The Sheriff's Office, however, remains tied to the agreement because, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the agency "is still working towards achieving those goals."

"I don't know what they're talking about," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday, adding that diversity within his agency is "in very good shape."

"I think it's irrelevant. I think it's antiquated," he said of the agreement. "I'm confident we will be out of it once we file the appropriate documents with the court."

In 1980, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging that the hiring and promotion practices of the county and its constitutional officers were running afoul of the Civil Rights Act. According to the suit, the county failed or refused to recruit or hire women, blacks and workers with Hispanic surnames, and used tests and other qualification standards that had adverse effects on those groups. The suit also claimed the county assigned minority workers to lower-paying and less desirable jobs.

Later that year, a federal judge approved an agreement that set long-term demographic goals for the county's workforce: 2 percent Hispanic; 11 percent African-American; and 25 percent women in what the agreement calls "traditionally non-female job classifications."

Federal officials have determined Pinellas County achieved those goals. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson approved a joint motion to relieve the county of the agreement's requirements.

After decades of work, the county workforce now "substantially meets the agreement's long-term goals and reflects the make-up of the relevant civilian labor force," the petition stated.

According to the petition, the county brought more minorities on board by expanding outreach and recruitment efforts and changing selection processes. County officials carefully monitored workforce demographics and sent reports to the Department of Justice semiannually.

Gualtieri said those percentages are not realistic for a law enforcement agency that must compete with other departments to hire qualified minorities.

"You have to be careful with the numbers," he said. "You don't have the pool of people to draw from A) who want it, and B) who are qualified."

The Sheriff's Office was unable to provide a breakdown of its demographics per position Friday, but records previously provided by the agency show its overall workforce of roughly 2,700 employees is 5 percent Hispanic, 12 percent African-American and 44 percent women.

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