PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Amid the strains of “America the Beautiful,” 26 police recruits marched into the graduation ceremony ready to embark on a career to protect and serve.
But this year’s class, like those of recent years, is not a reflection of the community in either gender or race.
“We’re still encouraging more minorities to apply, but for whatever reason, they are not drawn to these positions,” said Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss.
Of the 26, there are only five females, and only one of them is African American. One of the men is of east Indian descent.
Huss says not many non-whites apply and few meet the qualifications, which include 60 college credits and a clean criminal record. The city’s recruitment efforts have fallen short.
Huss: “We believe we’re doing everything we can.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “But it hasn’t paid off yet.”
Huss: “It hasn’t, but you understand, we’re following state statutes. Our hiring is based on state statutes that are following and it’s competitive and it’s civil service.”
College-educated African Americans have better opportunities says FOP President Mike LaPorte who says Pittsburgh police officers are underpaid.
“If you’re a minority with all of those qualifications is looking for employment, why would you take a substandard job,” said LaPorte.
The bureau maintains that more important than race or gender is the commitment to the job.
“Of course we want more minority officers that come on the job, but what we want more than anything is good, well-trained, professional police officers that treat everyone in the community the same,” said Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant.
It’s no slam on the class. It’s full of college graduates and military veterans who bring a wealth of experience to the job. But the police brass concedes that a police force that does not represent the community is at a distinct disadvantage.