COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus residents will have a hand in picking future police officers and firefighters through a new community initiative.

WCMH-TV reports ( ) a group of nine community evaluators will help hire first responders who better represent the communities they serve.

Community evaluator Janara Alfano says the panel is more focused on character than race. Alfano ultimately wants to mend the relationship between the city and first responders.

The community evaluators will work with the police and fire department to sort through applications.

Columbus Fire Department Lt. Chad Bair says firefighters appreciate the outside perspective.

The fire department and community evaluators will finish the review process this week. Applications for the police department open July 1.

Information from: WCMH-TV,

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