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State and Local Police Departments Struggle to Recruit Minorities & Come Up Short on Diversity

State and Local Police Departments Struggle to Recruit Minorities & Come Up Short on Diversity | Newtown News of Interest |

Pennsylvania police agencies are whiter than communities they serve, even as leaders pursue diversity


Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer a year ago, law enforcement across the country renewed promises to diversify their departments.


Yet even in big cities like Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, where minorities outnumber white residents, most police officers still are white men.


Available federal data shows the lack of diversity in police agencies is a national problem. As more veteran minority police officers approach retirement age, there are not enough new minority officers to take their places.


Reporters from across USA Today's Pennsylvania network conducted interviews with dozens of law enforcement agencies and their leaders across the state, and analyzed data that shows few minority police officers are patrolling the streets, and even fewer hold high-ranking positions.


Advocates say having a diverse police force helps build relationships within communities of color long accustomed to distrusting law enforcement, and that some departments just aren't trying hard enough to attract minorities to their ranks.


The topic of racial demographics in police forces remains a sensitive subject. Some police departments contacted about the issue did not return calls or did not make police officers available for interviews.


The number of minorities serving in municipal and state law enforcement is unknown because they aren’t required to report it in Pennsylvania, unlike other states such as New York.


The state’s main law enforcement organization, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, doesn’t track racial or gender diversity among rank and file or leadership.


Some police departments aren't even tracking the data themselves. One central Pennsylvania police chief claimed he didn't know how many of his 41 officers are racial or ethnic minorities, even though he said increasing diversity on the force was a priority.


Across the state, the network found:


Law enforcement agencies struggle to identify, recruit and retain officers of color, and most rely on methods that are outdated or ineffective.


Smaller overall applicant pools create new competition for minority candidates. It’s a situation that hurts small, rural departments, where there are fewer opportunities for career advancement.


Departments have more success hiring white women than minorities. [NOTE: The Newtown Police Department recently hired a female police officer.]


Even communities with Black and brown police leadership struggle with finding minority candidates, though they have some of the most aggressive recruiting efforts.


In minority-majority communities, distrust of police has deepened with each death of a Black citizen, and the violent police responses to civil protests has soured them on careers in law enforcement.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Some smaller city departments in minority-majority areas are hiring recruitment officers to find and retain police officers, with an emphasis on women and minorities.


The Newtown Police Department currently has 28 officers (not counting the Chief), 2 (7%) of which are white women. There are no minority police officers.


Newtown Police Chief John Hearn has said that he has confidence in the diversity of the application process he uses via the Police Chiefs Association of Bucks County. At the May 12, 2021, Board of Supervisors meeting, the Chief reported that there were only 205 applications for the May 22 Bucks County Consortium Police Officer Exam. This is less than half the number who registered for the test last year. The deadline for registering was May 14.



Should Newtown Police Department Hire Qualified Officers of Color?



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Newtown News of Interest
These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources that may be of interest to Newtown area residents. Please click on the "From" link to access the full original article. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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