Are blacks discouraged from applying for police jobs if they are required to swim? The question surfaced in North Miami when a Haitian-American city councilman asked police to drop the requirement because he said blacks historically cannot swim. North Miami police are dropping the requirement for a year because they desperately need officers. They say few departments require swimming and officers rarely save people in water. “Our swimming requirement may give the false perception that we are not serious in our efforts to hire Haitian police applicants,” said Police Chief Gwendolyn Boyd-Savage, who is black, reports the Miami Herald.
The department also has dropped its no-smoking requirement and blanketed newspapers with job advertisements. It has 14 vacancies, a sizable number in a department that is budgeted for 129 officers.
Critics say dropping the requirement lessens the quality of candidates in a region full of canals and lakes. Said Councilman Michael Blynn: “It’s an issue of public safety. People can learn to swim.”
Statistics have shown that minorities drown in disproportionate numbers to whites. In 2001, blacks in Florida were 50 percent more likely than whites to drown, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marvin Dunn, a historian at Florida International University, said blacks have traditionally had less money to pay for access to swimming lessons and pools.