Published May 06, 2004
NORTH MIAMI – In an attempt to recruit minority officers, the police department in North Miami, Fla., has dropped swimming as a required skill because it says not enough potential black applicants know how to swim well enough to pass the test.
The city's population is 60 percent Haitian and city officials say removing the swimming requirement wasn't done to be politically correct, but to fill 14 vacant slots.
"The bottom line is I need police officers," said North Miami Police Chief Gwendolyn Boyd-Savage (search). "When I look at the qualifications to become a good police officer ... a person's ability to swim or not to swim does not make them a good police officer or a bad police officer."
But Miami Dade County (search), which includes North Miami, has hundreds of miles of canals, lakes and beaches. In nearby Broward County (search), the top cop said deputy candidates are required to swim, regardless of the color of their skin.
Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne (search) said if his deputies weren't prepared to swim he wouldn't "send them in harm's way and endanger their lives."
For 25 years Lee Pitts has trained police and military officers how to swim and he doesn't think race has any relation to swim.
"The basic instructions to learn to swim are patience and desire, whether you're Haitian, Asian or African-American," Pitts said.
Click here to watch a report by Fox News' Orlando Salinas.