WBSM TV: Mitchell on New Superintendent, Hiring Hispanic Police
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell talked a great deal about new hires for the city, from the newly-selected superintendent of schools to the possibility of hiring more Spanish-speaking police officers.
Last week, the New Bedford School Committee voted 6-1 to select Randolph superintendent Thomas Anderson to become the next superintendent in New Bedford. Mitchell said he's confident the committee made the right decision.
"He's going to do a really good job," he said. "He's a guy who has ascended the ranks of educational leadership. He was a teacher for many years, he's been an assistant principal, a principal, an assistant superintendent in both urban and suburban districts. He has a breadth of experience, and more particularly, a great skill set. He's a really good manager, and has a really strong compass. He's a good listener."
Mitchell said that even though New Bedford schools have made great strides in recent years, there's still a lot of work for Anderson to do.
"He's already starting to work," he said. "He's already starting to meet with people, and as more people get to know him, I think they'll see the wisdom in the School Committee's pick."
One of the first things Anderson will need to do is fill some vacancies in the front office, including replacing the departing deputy superintendent, Jason DeFalco, who was recently picked to become the superintendent in the Blackstone-Millville district.
"I like (Anderson's) approach to come in and not break everything," Mitchell said. "He's not going to come in and turn over the tables. He's going to listen, see how things are going and make some adjustments."
The topic then switched from a school department hiring, to hiring new police officers.
Recently, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro met with a state-wide Latino police association to develop strategies on how to recruit and hire more Spanish-speaking officers, especially those who are of Hispanic descent. Chief Cordeiro said on WBSM's Townsquare Sunday that he especially wants to hire Hispanic officers who can rise up through the ranks of the department, because he says a police department "should mirror the community it serves."
Mitchell agreed that as the city has a growing Spanish-speaking population, it needs police officers that are fluent in the language.
"The only currency police officers have to trade in is trust, and the ability to communicate is related to that (trust)," he said. "We don't have nearly enough Spanish-speaking police officers to be effective in protecting our Spanish-speaking community, and I think we need more to build more trust in that community."
Although Mitchell said the focus is more on having the skill of being able to speak the language, he didn't deny that it would be helpful to have police officers that were also culturally Spanish as well as just speaking it. While some may worry that putting a special emphasis on hiring Hispanic officers may be seen as a discriminatory hiring practice, Mitchell pointed to Paradise v. Allen. That 1987 Supreme Court decision allowed the state of Alabama to specifically hire black state troopers in order to better represent the black portion of the state's population.
"What that said is that if there is a bona fide need for police officers who are of the same ethnic or racial backgrounds of some of the people they are dealing with, then it's OK to hire based on race or ethnicity," he said.
"It's 'What does the city need?' That should be the primary objective," he said. "And the answer is, yeah, the city needs Spanish-speaking police officers. In fact, we need a lot of them."
Mitchell pointed out that most of the people applying for the position that have Spanish-speaking skills would likely be ethnically Spanish anyway.
"I would also say, that if every Spanish-speaking officer on the police department was not Hispanic, but Irish or Polish or whatever, you'd probably have some difficulty building trust in the Spanish-speaking community," he said. "Along those lines, and consistent with how the Supreme Court has weighed in on this, I think it's OK to hire based on ethnicity in that limited circumstance, and I think most people would agree with that, too."