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Nov 20, 2012 7:24 PM by Jenise Fernandez

Decades-Old Decree Has Been Lifted

A decades-old "decree" meant to boost the employment of minorities and women in cities and parishes across the state, is no longer in effect.
Here's some background: three cities and one parish in Acadiana have been under the decree for 32 years. Statewide,16 cities and three parishes have had to abide by it since 1980. In Acadiana, departments that were affected include, New Iberia Fire Department, Opelousas Police and Fire departments, the Saint Landry Parish Fire Department, and Saint Martinville Police Department.
The purpose was to boost the number of minorities and women the police and fire departments hire.
Opelousas Police Chief Perry Gallow says there was a need for the decree when it was first put in place in 1980. A federal judge pulled the order because hiring practices have significantly improved. Of the 54 employees at the Opelousas Police Department, 10 are women and 30 are African American.

"The original decree was valid. It's certainly not a practice today as it was back then with the possibility of discrimination," said Gallow.

Hiring practices are now in compliance with federal standards. Gallow says he bases his hires on qualifications.

"It means anyone who has a desire to work for the department can come in and understand they have just as much as an opportunity as anyone else," said Gallow.

Over at the fire department, Chief Lee Cahanin says his employees reflect the community where they live. There are 45 employees,15 African Americans, two hispanics, and one woman. A long way from the less than one-percent of women and minorities working for the department, when the decree was first enacted.

"It has served its purpose and we continue to use practices to encourage minorities to apply for jobs within the fire department," said Cahanin.



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