High diversity? Only 2 Blacks in new police recruit class

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While African-Americans make up 26 percent of Pittsburgh’s population, they make up only 16 percent of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. According to data from the Bureau’s annual report, the number of African-Americans on the police force dropped from 17 percent to 16 percent between 2010 and 2011.

And, if the demographic breakdown of the newest police recruit class is any indication, the number of Black police officers in Pittsburgh will continue to drop. The newest class, who entered the academy on Aug. 20, has only two African-Americans out of 41 total recruits.

DyingBreed
DYING BREED—African-American police officers like the three shown here are a dwindling demographic in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. (Photo by J.L.Martello)

With nearly 5 percent African-American participation, the newest recruit class is slightly more diverse than past classes where there has been only one Black recruit or none at all. There are more minorities in the latest class with nine women, one Asian, one Hispanic and one Indian (Native-American).

“It’s clear that our hard work to attract more minorities to City government works,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in a press release. “Not only have we significantly increased the percentage of minorities in leadership positions, but we’ve begun to improve the minority representation of our police bureau—a task that so many thought could not be done.”

According to the release, this recruit class is the most diverse class in 11 years. Of the 100 minority applicants on the eligibility list from February 2009 to February 2012, only two made the class.

Out of the 90 African-Americans who made it through the application process and onto that 2009-2012 list, only one African-American was hired. This year two of the 108 African-Americans who made it on to the 2012-2013 eligibility list have entered the academy, although that does not guarantee them a position on the force.

Comparatively, of the 138 females who are on the eligibility list, there are nine in the newest recruit class. And while only 3 Indians and 6 Asians made it on to the eligibility list, one applicant from each demographic made it into the newest recruit class.

The Bureau plans to recruit another class from the current eligibility list before February of next year.

The New Pittsburgh Courier called for reactions to the new recruit class using the social networking site Facebook. Here are some of the responses.

“It’s like this in any job of authority, or high pay. The minority always seem to get the crumbs,” said Quincy Jones.

While many in the Black community reacted to the newest recruit class with cries labeling Pittsburgh a “racist city,” some said there are barriers preventing Blacks from being eligible. Others said African-Americans are simply not interested in being police officers.

“Sadly many young Black males do not meet the college credit requirements, many cannot pass the written exam. If they live outside of the city who is going to help them relocate within the city (as required)? Will the city foot the bill?

If Black men already hold 30 or more college credits chances are they are going to take those credits and run. And how can you recruit a Black male into a city that is known to be so racially divided? $40,000 to work these streets, where there are killings everyday. (I don’t know). It’s a tough sell,” said Victoria Williams.

Still, while African-Americans applicants to the police force are fewer than their White counterparts, their numbers are more reflective of the city’s racial makeup than the recent recruit classes. In 2008, of the 1357 applicants, 18 percent or 245 were African-American.

The New Pittsburgh Courier contacted Police Chief Nate Harper and Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission Director Judy Hill Finegan for comment but was told Joanna Doven, press secretary for the Mayor’s Office, would be handling questions related to the new recruit class. Doven failed to respond to questions by Courier press deadline.

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