The Daily Herald is right! Our police departments are way too white!

Whether it’s on the air, on Facebook, or just between the two of us, I always enjoy the opportunity to debate the merits of our journalistic philosophies with Daily Herald reporter Jim Fuller. And the fact that we frequently disagree, as the great Inspector Clouseau once noted, only makes it “All part of life’s rich pageant.”

The topic that seems to elicit the most frequent butting of our heads  has to be what newspapers should and shouldn’t cover. At the conclusion of our most recent discourse, Jim submitted that, just like a Jewish mother, there was nothing his newspaper could do to make me happy.

Ah! But armed with my unbridled enthusiasm for today’s dead on DH piece on the blinding whiteness of our suburban police departments, I’m officially letting you know that Mr. Fuller was wrong once again!

Jake Griffin and the DH did a great job on this story.

None of these things is not like the other in St. Charles.

None of these things is not like the other in St. Charles.

Presumably prompted by the Ferguson, Missouri debacle, Griffin cited a 2007 Department of Justice study that found that 16 of the largest north and northwest suburban police departments are 90 percent white, despite serving an average 36 percent minority population. Then Mr. Griffin went on to examine what might have caused this phenomenon.

But don’t take my word for it! You can read the entire article for yourself right here!

Just as you might expect, a crescendo of conservative Caucasians waded into the comments section claiming the whole story was utter BS because, when it comes to hiring police officers, you always want to fall back on the best possible candidate.

Of course, that’s nothing more than Caucasian-ese for “we really want you to keep on hiring white folks because we’re more than willing to completely ignore the fact that most minorities are born economically, educationally, and prejudicially, far behind the eight ball.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we need to go all Affirmative action here. But some white people, and police chiefs, insisted the real problem was minorities simply weren’t applying, which begs a chicken and the egg kinda question.

Could the fact that qualified minorities are bypassing your application process be directly related to their perceived likelihood of being hired? A police department’s reputation does precede itself. It would certainly seem that the Tri-Cities’ gendarme job description includes a pot belly, short haircut, and pasty white skin.

Or could it be that, per almost former Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levinson’s bar business model theory, potential black and Hispanic officers aren’t too thrilled with the prospect of becoming an even bigger minority on their own police force? In some cases, they’d be the only non-white officer.

How well has breaking that kind of barrier worked out for the President?

So if Affirmative Action isn’t the answer, then what is, you ask? Griffin quotes Hispanic advocate, Julie Contreras, who said, if local departments are truly interested in diversity, then they should get off their collective butts and reach out to qualified minority candidates.

And speaking of qualified minority candidates, my answer to all those aforementioned convoluted commenters would be, “How do you know you have the most qualified candidate until you’ve explored all the possibilities?” The best businesses go to great lengths to recruit the best people all the time. You might get much more interesting results if you make a real effort to attract a broader base of applicants.

The problem is, there are real ramifications for failing to make that effort. One of those complications is that it becomes far easier for an all-white (mostly male) group to adopt an us against them mentality when their only daily interaction with any minority is a traffic stop.

In the DH article, Carpentersville Public Safety Director Al Popp admitted that a diverse workforce is always better, but then he said, “But I don’t think individual makeup of an officer has anything to do with job performance. Lady Justice is blind for a reason.”

Really? If that is indeed the case, then please tell me why CPD tickets minority drivers 30 percent more often than their Caucasian counterparts? Say what you will, but it would appear that Lady Justice certainly ain’t color blind.

And they’re not nearly the worst. Per a previous blog post, Batavia and Geneva – two of the whitest departments on the planet – stop minorities twice as often, and write ‘em up 55 and 100 percent more often respectively. We’re not even talking about criminal prosecutions which are even more lopsided. Oh! And by the way! Around 90 percent of the prosecutors are white too!

Just like it is with any city council, a police department cannot properly function unless it reasonably reflects and represents the people they purport to serve.

So what really frosts my cookies are all the white folks who are so ready, willing, and able to accept and promote this status quo, despite the fact that it was perpetuated by and built on the kind of bigotry that still needs to be redressed.

No one’s advocating firing half the white guys to set the imbalance straight overnight. But what’s wrong with, on regular occasion, sending a department staffer down to Macomb to court some of Western Illinois’ finest impending minority graduates? That rolling out the welcome mat message can be a pretty powerful thing.

Now that we’ve set that record straight, let’s get back to our original contention. Because before you can truly consider any new newsprint business model, you have to be able to provide content for which people are willing to pay. So not only am I pleased to say the DH did just that, but I love it whenever I’m provided with yet another opportunity to prove Mr. Fuller wrong.

A newspaper can make me happy, because the Daily Herald just did.

3 thoughts on “The Daily Herald is right! Our police departments are way too white!

  1. I totally agree with your primary point — there needs to be an active recruitment process to encourage applicants from ALL races, genders, etc. But two somewhat random thoughts:

    1. Based on your description, I’ve been in the wrong profession for over 35 years. I’m supposed to have been on one of the Tri-Cities P.D.s. When I go to the beach, I wear a t-shirt so the sun’s rays reflecting from my belly don’t blind everyone. Plus if I lie out, people tend to think I beached accidentally and run over to slide me back out into the water.

    2. If we’re looking for increased minority representation, wouldn’t that mean that in Aurora they’re doing well? After all, the town is 80some % Hispanic. So the Caucasians may not be the minority of the P.D., but they’re the minority of the citizens.

  2. Jeff,

    Actually it’s very close in Aurora! The city is 44 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black. So with 38 percent Caucasian, it depends upon where you throw the 7 percent Asian group.

    And next time I see you on the beach I’ll tell folks not to call Greenpeace.


  3. Oops. For stats I guess I should have gone to the city site, not the schools. My school district (131, east side) is 85% Hispanic, 9% black, 4% white, and 1% each Asian, American Indian, and mixed race.

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