New York police commissioner says bringing more non-white officers into force is challenging because many African American men have criminal records
Hiring more non-white officers is difficult because so many would-be recruits have criminal records, the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, has said.
“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,” Bratton said in an interview with the Guardian.
Police departments, responding to widespread protests against several high-profile police killings of black men, are boosting efforts to recruit more non-white officers. But budget restrictions, strained relations between police and minority communities and, according to Bratton, a history of indiscriminate policing tactics that disproportionately target black and Latino men complicate the department’s goal of racial parity.
Bratton blamed the “unfortunate consequences” of an explosion in “stop, question and frisk” incidents that caught many young men of color in the net by resulting in them being given a summons for a minor misdemeanor. As a result, Bratton said, the “population pool [of eligible non-white officers] is much smaller than it might ordinarily have been”.
The application process to join the NYPD includes, among other things, a complete criminal background check.
Convicted felons are automatically disqualified from the NYPD applicant pool, as well as anyone guilty of a domestic violence charge or who has been dishonorably discharged from the military.
Summonses, however, do not automatically disqualify a candidate, though they are taken into account during the application process. For example, a summons for disorderly conduct would not preclude a candidate from being accepted into the force, but repeated convictions for an offense that demonstrates “disrespect for the law” could result in disqualification.
The controversial stop-and-frisk policy was struck down in 2013 by a federal judge, who called the practice a “policy of indirect racial profiling”. Judge Shira A Scheindlin found that the program led officers to routinely stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white”.
But critics say Bratton – who helped shrink the widespread use of stop-and-frisk -is partly, if not ultimately, responsible for the relative paucity of eligible non-white recruits.
“It is a net that he set out for them,” said Rochelle Bilal, vice-chair of the National Black Police Association and a former Philadelphia police officer. “If [Bratton] didn’t stop people for nothing, he might have a bigger pool to hire from.”