CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) confronted the Assistant Charlotte Fire Chief during an open house Wednesday morning. The meeting was slated to highlight positive things going on within the Charlotte Fire Department.
The tone of the meeting quickly changed after the president of the NAACP confronted Deputy Chief Rich Grainger, on camera, about what she says is an issued that keeps getting swept under the rug.
"This is not a PR stunt," Corine Mack said. "That's a problem for me. That's a problem for me."
The NAACP is alleging that the Charlotte Fire Department has a poor track record regarding the hiring and promotion of women and minorities.
After the formal presentation ended, the floor was open for questions and that's when Mack took Deputy Chief Grainger to task over who get's hired and moves up the chain of command.
"I'm shocked to hear that we have this kind of action going on here in Charlotte, and honestly it's been going on for many many years and should have been stopped a long time ago," she said. "If you're interested in changing things, then meet with the community at large, African Americans."
The department brass admits there is an issue as it relates to hiring qualified candidates.
WBTV's Steve Crump sat down one-on-one with Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan. Despite recruiting efforts, Chief Hannan says few women of color ever apply.
"Out of almost 1,100 firefighters, we have only two African-American, female firefighters," he said.
Hannan is quick to point out that being hired is an exercise that isn't easy or overnight.
"It's a long process. It's a written test. It's a physical agility test," he said. "We don't test until December. You won't get hired until the next September or October."
For the last six years, Demetria Pipkin has screened and assisted many of the applicant's who answer the 911 dispatches. She thinks the months of training may be a turn off for those looking for a quick career.
"It's got to be something you really want," Pipkin said. "And that may be a problem as well or a challenge we face because people lose interest."
Hannan says the department will focus on outreach from Explorer Scouts to recruitment efforts with CMS to attract new candidates.
"If you have people who are interested, they need to sign up and take the test," he said.
The department is also looking at the possibility of a new ad campaign and members of the organization are going through implicit bias training - which is an exercise that a number of city departments have gone through, including CMPD.