Chief puts in extra effort to hire minority police officers in Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – While Youngstown Mayor-Elect Tito Brown promises to focus on diversity in City Hall, the city’s police chief says he’s been working on that in his department since he was first appointed almost four years ago.

Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees admits he learned soon after being appointed that the process of finding, recruiting, and ultimately hiring minority officers wouldn’t be easy.

“We weren’t really attracting as many minorities as we thought we should so as a result, we had to look a little deeper,” he said.

Lees said the methods used in past administrations — civil service or the military — did not provide that many minority candidates. He turned to advertising on radio, TV, newspapers, and billboards and reached out to inner-city clergy.

“Here’s the posters, here’s the recruitment information. Put it on your bulletin boards, talk about it during services if you can, whatever you can do.”

The effort has paid off. Of the 32 officers who have either been hired — or are soon to be hired — since Lees became chief, 14 are black, Hispanic, or women. That compares to just seven who are minorities out of 30 new hires under the previous two chiefs.

But Lees said the numbers still fall short of reflecting the city’s population.

“We’re gonna continue to push in those areas and see if there’s another direction we can take.”

In the meantime, recruiting could continue to be an issue in the future as other agencies, and even the private sector, try to hire away Youngstown’s officers.

“That becomes a difficult thing to compete with, especially when they can be a little more flexible with salaries and benefits,” Lees said.

As for his own future, Lees said he will apply to stay on as chief when the city’s new mayor takes over.

The numbers provided by the Youngstown Police Department reflect officers who are currently employed by the Youngstown Police Department. They’re based on the department’s current officers, not officers who have already left the department.