By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams praised the department’s current minority recruitment efforts in a recent Cleveland City Council Public Safety Committee meeting. He stated that the current class of candidates in training is 50% minority.
“Our recruitment efforts have been stellar,” said Williams. “We’ve recruited at about 50% minority.”
The Cleveland Police Department has struggled with minority recruitment for most of modern history. The NAACP and several other groups sued the city in 1972. A Consent Decree was put in place to ensure the hiring of more minority officers after a judge determined discrimination existed in the department’s recruitment and examination processes.
More than two decades later, in 1995, the number of minority officers on the force had increased to 33.7%.
In 2015, the city agreed to a Consent Decree in response to a pattern of unconstitutional policing that disproportionately harmed residents of color. That year, 39% of the police academy cadet and training class were minorities.
This plan recognized the need for more women and minority recruits, as the percentage of minority officers has also remained around 30% since the 1990s.
According to data provided by the Cleveland Division of Police:
- In 2019, minority cadets reached 43%. Of 77 cadets, 21 were Black, and 12 others were Hispanic or Asian.
- The 2021 class has 50% minority enrollment. Of 40 cadets, 13 are Black, and 7 are Hispanic.
- In 2020, the percentage of minority recruits stayed the same; of 37 cadets in the class of recruits for 2020, 12 were Black, increasing the Black population’s recruitment percentage to 32%, but with overall fewer officers. Four cadets in this group were Hispanic, bringing the minority recruitment percentage to 43%. This year’s cadets class has 40 students, 13 Black, 33%, and 7 Hispanic, 17% of the class, for a total of 50% minority participation.
Despite the better recruitment numbers, the Cleveland Division of Police still has large disparities in the numbers of minority officers both on the ground and supervisory positions compared to the city’s population. According to the public records provided to The Cleveland Observer, in both 2019 and 2020, 23% of patrol officers in the Division were Black.
The disparity is larger in supervisory roles; in 2019, there were 50 Black police supervisors, compared to 206 white, a difference of 18% to 74%. In 2020, that number of supervisors minutely increased to 20% Black, with 73% white.
One of the department’s biggest concerns is attrition and replacing the large number of retiring officers. In the City’s Five-Year Recruitment Plan, the Department states, “Retirement projections for the police alone show an increase in the number of people who will retire over the next five years. Over 40% of the Division has over twenty years on the job, and retirement is available after twenty-five years.”
Police recruitment of Black officers is a concern all over the country, not just in Cleveland. Many American cities and suburbs have experienced population shifts to a majority of Black or other minority people within the last generation (i.e., Ferguson, Missouri). However, they are still served primarily by a white police force. Tensions and mistrust of the police force are often cited as a deterrent to Black people wanting to be officers themselves. Experts add that better, higher-paying career opportunities are more available now to Black people, even in the law enforcement field itself, especially in technology.
Current efforts to recruit minority officers include pipeline programs in collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College and local high schools, hosting symposiums, and attending local events to recruit directly from the community. Last year Ohio Governor Mike DeWine created the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment that will be working with police departments all over Ohio to increase awareness and advertising of the job. The current class of Cleveland Police recruits is expected to graduate in June.
This article was written with information obtained from Documenters.org, a news service providing coverage of local government meetings currently operating in Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. For more information, visit the City Bureau website.