All too often, since the Michael Brown shooting, I've heard the media and activist blacks question the racial makeup of the Ferguson Police Department. The City of Ferguson is more than two-thirds black. Yet, despite this, the police force is made up of 50 whites and only 3 blacks. Of course, this would imply that the Michael Brown shooting would never have occurred if only African Americans patrolled those primarily black neighborhoods.
However, the racial disparity in Ferguson is indicative of all too many minority cities and neighborhoods through the country. As a New York Times study reported, white police dominate black police an average 30 percentage points higher in nearly all predominately black communities.
But, no one seems to want to analyze why there aren't more black police officers; especially when a city has a black mayor and a black police chief. For example, Dellwood, Missouri is 84% black and the police force is 94% white. They have both a black Mayor, Reggie Jones, and a black Police Chief, Lt. Norman Campbell. Yet, no one is talking about the disparity between the racial makeup of the police force and the community. This is because it would expose the reasons why these neighborhoods, in general, have low black police participation rates and, why blacks, have high rates of unemployment and low pay.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the main requirements for becoming a police trainee is having a high school diploma.
In light of that, blacks fall well short. First of all, only 68% of blacks graduate from high school; the lowest rate among any other ethnic group. As a result, one-third can't even apply to take the police academy exam. But, having a high school diploma means nothing if the person holding it is functionally illiterate. That is a big problem. Studies have shown that by the ninth grade, less than 44% of black children are literate relative to that education level. This is down from a 50% literacy rate for those tested in the 4th grade. So, essentially, blacks tend to fail police academy tests because all too many are illiterate. After all, one of the major duties of any policeman is to write up a police report to be used as a legal document in a criminal court. If you can't effectively write, you can't be a police officer. But, instead of recognizing this deficiency and addressing it on an educational basis, Eric Holder's Justice Department is trying to increase the number of blacks in heavily minority neighborhoods by dumbing down the written Police Academy entrance exams. All that means is that there will be less quality policing these communities. In my opinion, this is what Holder will do with the Ferguson Police Department when he completes his Department of Justice investigation.
Another problem standing in the way of potential black candidates entering the force is the high rate of those having criminal records. Nearly one in three African American males, aged 20 to 29, are under some form of court supervision. Meaning that, again, another third of blacks are automatically disqualified from entering any police academy.
Lastly, I think that the supposed distrust of police is another reason that some blacks don't want to become police officers. Why would anyone who distrusts an organization want to become a part of it? Of course, the opposing argument there, is that a more racially balanced police force in minority communities would ultimately aid in dispelling that distrust.
To me, black leaders -- including Barack Obama and Eric Holder -- need to stop focusing in on what is wrong with white America and start focusing in on what is wrong with black America in terms of education, literacy, and criminal behavior. Only then will minority policing by blacks increase. In a city like Ferguson, that same leadership needs to understand that the police are doing their jobs to primarily protect blacks. While, at the same time, never knowing if their life could end at any moment while on duty. They are not there to just protect the one-third that is white. To this last point, please view the Milwaukee Sheriff's video commentary in the link below.
Ferguson, Mo., has 50 white police officers, three black: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/aug/17/andrea-mitchell/ferguson-police-department-has-50-white-officers-t/
New York Times: The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html?_r=0
Dellwood, Missouri: A Message from the Mayor: http://www.cityofdellwoodmo.com/908/A-Message-from-the-Mayor
Real median household income by race: http://migrationfiles.ucdavis.edu/uploads/rmn/2013/10/16/real-median-income.png
Requirements to becoming a Police Officer: http://education-portal.com/articles/Police_Officer_Educational_Requirements_for_Police_Officers.html
Study: Record High School Graduation Rate On Track for 2020 But low-income and minority students still lag behind, the study finds: http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2014/04/28/high-school-graduation-rates-reach-record
What’s up with African American literacy rates?: http://ourweekly.com/news/2013/oct/03/whats-african-american-literacy-rates/
Dumbing down police recruitment exams - World Magazine: http://www.worldmag.com/2011/03/dumbing_down_police_recruitment_exams
Statistics of incarcerated African-American males: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics_of_incarcerated_African-American_males
Crime rate in Ferguson, Missouri (MO): murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map: http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Ferguson-Missouri.html
David Clarke, black Milwaukee sheriff: Eric Holder has ‘disgusted’ me: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/3/david-clarke-black-milwaukee-sheriff-eric-holder/