Police Chiefs Claim City Laws Create Unexpected Roadblocks in Efforts to Diversify Ranks

Thursday, November 12, 2015
New police recruits take oath to join NYPD (photo: Mary Altaffer, AP)

Efforts by police chiefs to hire more minority officers have run into roadblocks put up by states making it more difficult to do so.


For instance, the city of Inkster, Michigan, does not subsidize the cost of police training. Those wishing to become officers there must already be certified or pay $6,000 to attend an academy.


This was a surprise to the town’s new police chief, William Riley III, who wants to expand the number of black officers, currently at five. The other 21 officers on the force are white, even though 75% of the population of Inkster is black. But making candidates pay for their tuition limits the pool of those who can afford a law enforcement career.


Like some other states, Michigan is prohibited from reimbursing towns for police training. This kind of restriction is good for budgets, but not for diversifying police departments, The New York Times reported.


“That knocks out a whole swath of people that I know are eligible,” Riley, who got his start as an officer in Newport News, Va., told the Times. “I’d never have been able to become a Newport News police officer if I had to pay to go to the academy.”


Some states, such as Alabama, do provide funding to cities to offset the cost of police officer training. Still other states have other restrictions that might make it difficult to recruit more minorities.


“In Massachusetts, for example, state law generally requires that officer hiring be based on a civil service test that is administered only once every two years,” Matt Apuzzo and Sarah Cohen wrote for the Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Police Chiefs, Looking to Diversify Forces, Face Structural Hurdles (by Matt Apuzzo and Sarah Cohen, New York Times)

Underrepresentation of Minorities in Police Departments is Widespread across U.S. (by Steve Straehley and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

White Cops Policing Minority Communities…All Too Common (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

If Ferguson is 67% African-American, Why are the Mayor, the City Council Majority and 50 of 53 Police White? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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