By: John Kelly
Police forces often a sea of white
In at least 50 cities with more than 100,000 people, the percentage of black police is less than half of what blacks represent in the population, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Census estimates.
Although attention has focused in recent months on under-representation of blacks on police forces, large gaps exist for Hispanics in even more cities. Hispanic representation among police is less than half of their share of the population in at least 100 cities.
"You've got to have a diverse police department, so you can hear what's coming from the community," says St. Petersburg, Fla., Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
USA TODAY reviewed Census estimates from 2000 to 2010, the latest numbers available nationally about the racial and ethnic makeup of specific occupations in cities and counties.
The USA TODAY analysis found:
- Minority officers are concentrated in a few metropolises. More than one-third of 111,000 black officers worked in just 10 cities. One of every four of 107,000 Hispanic police worked in seven cities.
- In 80 of 282 cities with more than 100,000 residents, the disparity between representation of blacks on the police force and in the community was greater than 10 percentage points. In 10 cities, including Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland, the disparity surpassed 25 percentage points.
- Large disparities exist for the Hispanic population in even more cities. In at least 125 cities, the disparity between Hispanics' representation among police and the population was greater than 10 percentage points. In 37 cities, the gap surpassed 25 percentage points.
- In all but a few of the cities with the widest disparities for blacks and Hispanics, most saw the gap remain about the same or widen from 2000 to 2010.
"It's a battle everywhere to diversify, especially here in the West with Latino peace officers," says Lt. Andrew Peralta of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and president of the National Latino Peace Officer Association. "There has to be a national incentive to maintain a recruitment team and utilize minority organizations like us."