PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – At a time when police-minority community relations are often strained, the Police Bureau is becoming increasingly white.
In the last graduating police class of 34 recruits, only one was African American. In the present class, there are no African Americans – a disappointment to Chief Nate Harper, who has personally tried to recruit minorities.
“I am disappointed that we have no diversity in this last class but in the future classes I believe that you will see diversity,” said Chief Harper.
Through a program called Diversity 365, the city has tried to bolster minority and women recruitments in the Police and the Fire Bureau, which are both almost entirely white and male. Program administrators must overcome some resistance in the minority community.
“If there’s something you don’t like, if you are someone who has a lot of criticism about the way things are done or perceive problems, come join us and be part of the solution. Help us fix it,” said Tomiko Stanley of Diversity 365.
The Pittsburgh Police had been a predominately all white male force until 1975 when a federal judge ordered quota hiring – but his decision was reversed in 1991.
Since then, African Americans – who accounted for 26 percent of the force – have fallen to 15 percent. Women, who made up 24 percent of police, are now only 18 percent.
The Fire Bureau has almost always been comprised of white males. African Americans make up only nine percent of the Bureau and women account for just one percent of the firefighters.
“Our numbers were absolutely horrible in regards to females in the Fire Bureau,” said Stanley.
But a fresh recruitment effort is underway, and the city is optimistic. There are also preparatory classes being offered at community colleges, as well as training to help recruits pass these physical tests currently being conducted in Schenley Park.
The jury is still out as to whether these efforts will pay off, but for now, public safety forces are less and less reflective of the communities they serve and protect.