The Center for Public Integrity has a new study out this month that finds in 49 of the 50 largest cities in the US, police departments have a smaller percentage of African-American as police officers on the force than the share of African-Americans in the cities those officers serve. The lone exception? Atlanta.
In Baltimore, white people make up 28 percent of the population but 50 percent of the city's police officers. In Philadelphia, where police and protesters clashed last Thursday during a #FreddieGray rally, whites are 37 percent of the population but 58 percent of the police force. In Sacramento, whites comprise just 36 percent of residents but 72 percent of police.
Those are just a few of the departments whose ethnic makeup is dramatically out of sync with the demographics of the cities they serve. Using census data, Chris Zubak-Skees of the Center for Public Integrity crunched the numbers for the nation's 50 most populous cities. In 49 of them—Atlanta being the lone exception—the cops are whiter than the community.
Zubak-Skees notes that police departments in many cities have worked hard to make themselves more diverse. Acting on recommendations by the 1968 Kerner Commission—which was appointed to investigate the causes of riots in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, and Detroit—many departments began reviewing fair promotion policies and recruiting African Americans. The numbers have improved somewhat over the years, but most big-city forces are still far from representative. The Kerner report warned that an "abrasive relationship between police and the minority communities has been a major—and explosive—source of grievance, tension, and disorder."
"For many, those words still ring depressingly true today," CPI notes.
Is there any wonder still why there's a trust issue (not to mention the "us vs them" occupation mentality) when nearly all major police departments look nothing like the cities they are supposed to protect?
Besides Atlanta, the only other cities that are within even 5% of having the correct number of white officers on the force are Albuquerque and Seattle.
The city with the largest disparity? Milwaukee. The city is only 38% white, but white cops make up a whopping 70% of the Milwaukee PD. No surprise here that the worst thing to happen when a white cop shot and killed an unarmed black man in that city was that the cop was fired.