Pittsburgh’s police force is almost 85% white, while our total population is 65% white. Only about 15% of our current force is African American, Asian, Hispanic, or American Indian and only about 18% is female. We must do more to attract women and minority recruits to our academy and our police force to better represent the melting pot of racial and ethnic backgrounds in our city, and forge better relationships between the police and minority communities.
1. Forming Strategic Partnerships to Enhance Recruitment
We must form close partnerships with colleges and universities, public schools, and workforce development organizations. Groups like the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board can not only advertise and market jobs on the police force but, in partnership with the city, provide resources like personal trainers to help prospective recruits pass the police physical exam. The city is not doing enough to forge these partnerships and reach out to a broader group of recruits.
2. Holding Neighborhood Study Halls and Training Sessions
The police should be actively working to build capacity in the communities where we most need recruits. The Providence, Rhode Island police, for example, hold study halls for the police written exam and training sessions for the physical exam in neighborhoods with the higher percentage of minority residents. These study halls serve dual purposes – they provide hands-on training in police procedures and standards such as how to write an incident report; and help build relationships with the communities that are the most hard hit by crime. These neighborhoods also need police officers who know the community and work collaboratively with residents to solve problems.
3. Engaging Minority Youth
The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police must make a concerted effort to engage minority youth throughout the city and provide employment opportunities that can lead to full time jobs on the force. Through engagement in Police Athletic Leagues and direct communication with area high schools, the police should be recruiting high school juniors and graduating seniors for summer jobs at police zones and at headquarters to give them a first-hand look at the important role the police play in our communities. The more the police can positively engage youth, the more trust can be built.
We must take an active role in recruitment and tailor our recruitment strategy to get the results we want. The police will be more effective, more respected, and better able to keep our city safe when they reflect what our city looks like. We must make this a top priority for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.