CHARLOTTE – This week marks 100 days since Chief Reginald Johnson took over the Charlotte Fire Department which had to extinguish a few fires of its own with accusations of low morale and discrimination.
- This week marks 100 days since Chief Reginald Johnson took over the Charlotte Fire Department
- Johnson said he met with employees directly who expressed concerns
- He also said they're starting a pilot program with Gardner-Webb University to help aspiring firefighters
Before Johnson took over, a group of Charlotte fire employees sent an anonymous letter to city officials which outlined concerns about unethical promotional practices and a lack of women and minorities in leadership roles.
Johnson said he met with those employees directly.
"Let's just be clear that people's interpretation of how things are in the fire department has a sense of reality to it, so we have to take those concerns seriously,” said Chief Reginald Johnson.
He said that conversation was part of the inspiration to create several internal work groups.
“It's easy to make decisions up here at headquarters, but it doesn't mean you'll get the buy in and you're not going to see the entire picture. That's why it's important to have a diverse work group,” he said.
Johnson said these groups will be made up of various sworn and civilian fire department employees and take a closer look a various department functions like promotions, training and hiring.
“To either say yes we're doing a great job and maybe just a quick tweak here and there or we need a complete change over,” said Johnson.
There will also be a group focused on recruitment. Currently, Johnson said the fire department doesn't reflect the city's diversity.
"Doesn't say that the men and women here aren't great people, but as we know the importance of diversity is that problem-solving, innovation are propelled by diversity,” said Johnson. “We want people with different views, different cultures, different backgrounds to help us push forward with that.”
Johnson said they're also starting a pilot program with Gardner-Webb University to help aspiring firefighters become better prepared for the application process.
“Unfortunatley we lose quick a few applicants during the first step, the written exam, and if we can get them to the second, third and fourth steps, I think we can see that increase in diversity,” said Chief Johnson.
Johnson is the first permanent black chief of Charlotte Fire, replacing interim Deputy Chief Howard "Pete" Key who took over last September, following Chief Jon Hannan's retirement.