Last week, New York swore in 678 new police recruits of which only 12 percent are Black. The last class of recruits sworn in was 17 percent Black, a more accurate representation of the city, which is 17.6 percent Black.
Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton have been under scrutiny when it comes to diversity on the force, and both have made statements affirming the department’s commitment to diversity. However, this new class of recruits falls short of those promises.
In an interview withThe Guardianover the summer, Bratton said the “population pool [of eligible non-white officers] is much smaller than it might ordinarily have been” because more Blacks have spent time in jail, which is an automatic disqualifier for joining the force. “We have a significant population gap among African American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” he said.
Anyone who has been convicted of a felony or a domestic charge, or anyone who was dishonorably discharged from the military, isineligibleto join the department. However, while summonses on an applicant’s record are looked into as part of a mandatory background check, they are not automatic disqualifiers.
Additional factors that “would ordinarily be cause for disqualification” are “conviction of an offense which indicates lack of good moral character” and “repeated convictions of an offense which indicate disrespect for the law,” both of which contain vague language.
Bratton cited stop and frisks as a large part of the problem, but not everyone agrees with that assessment. “Stop-and-frisk was not the hart of the problem,” according to Robert Gangi, who is the director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) in New York City. “Stop-and-frisk was the symptom of the blatantly racist policing, known as broken windows.” (Broken windows policing is the practice of being harder on low-level offenses to prevent these offenders from escalating to more serious crimes in the future a policy Bratton has firmly stood by.)
While the department has made efforts to reduce their number of stop and frisks, with the city seeing sharp declines over the past couple of years (the number went from 685,724 in 2011 to just 46,235 in 2014), data on the practice definitely makes racial profiling by the NYPD evident. Whathasn’t changed muchbetween 2011 and now is the percentage of those who were found completely innocent after the fact, which was always at least 81 percent, as well as the disproportionate number of Blacks who were stopped, which was always more than half of the total despite Blacks not even making up a quarter of the city’s population. In the first half of 2015, 54 percent of people stopped by police were Black.
If the majority of people being stopped by police are still Blacks, then only a symptom, and not the cause, of police profiling is not being properly addressed.
Despite the decline in Blacks in the new class, these new recruits are 32 percent Latino, which is the highest number seen in a single class in the department’s history.