TIM STEVENS, founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project
The newest class of Pittsburgh Police Academy graduates who will be assigned to work in Zones 2 and 5, which include Black neighborhoods like the Hill District, Homewood and Larimer, boast a grand total of three African-Americans, two males and one female.
Other than a single Hispanic male, the remainder of the 22-officer class were White and male.
Since they started training, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has seen its African-American Chief indicted, several officers shot, several more under scrutiny for the lack of response to a 911 call that ended in a fatality, and more recently, for the over-response of an officer arresting a teacher and handcuffing a photographer who criticized his driving.
NAACP Pittsburgh President Connie Parker is attending the organization’s national convention in Florida and could not be reached for comment by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.
African-Americans account for 26 percent of the city’s population, yet the bureau, according to the most recent numbers from 2011, has only 16 percent Black personnel. This class comes in at 13 percent. And that number will likely decline further as older officers hired under Affirmative Action criteria in the 1970s and 1980s retire.
Tim Stevens, founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project said this is another reason to support Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess’ push to continue requiring police officers to live in the city.
“Being who I am, when I saw (news of the graduates) on television, I was looking for Black faces, but didn’t see any,” said Stevens. “The good news is it’s three more than we have now, and better than most of the recent classes that had zero African-Americans.
But it’s not just Blacks who could be leaving the 875-member force. The number of officers eligible to retire this year is 294. That could grow to 489 by 2015. The union says manpower shortages are already forcing officers to work overtime. And yet, attempts to increase minority recruits are not yielding hoped for results.
Stevens said Black recruiting would be that much harder if the residency requirement is lost.
“All the tension we have now would get significantly worse if we dilute the pool of Black applicants. That could set the table for even more negative interactions than we have now.”
Stevens said ACLU is still negotiating with the city about its relative lack of African-American officers, and that he plans to remind council of these numbers during the residency requirement public hearing July 18.
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