In the wake of several shootings in recent months of black men at the hands of white police officers, many US police departments are increasing efforts to hire non-whites to police forces.
But in the biggest US city, it has been hard to hire black police officers, because so many have criminal records, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told The Guardian.
“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,” Mr Bratton said in an interview.
According to the Associated Press, whites make up 54 per cent of NYPD officers despite comprising just 33 per cent of the city’s population. Just 16 per cent of NYPD officers are black, even though they represent 23 per cent of the population.
Mr Bratton blamed the controversial “stop and frisk” policing tactics for a disproportionate number of arrests of young black men. Critics of “stop and frisk” – in which officers were permitted to detain and search people without a warrant – say it was overwhelmingly used on black and Hispanic citizens.
A federal judge struck down “stop and frisk” policing in 2013. Since returning to New York in 2014, Mr Bratton has been staunch in his opposition of the tactic.
After recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and North Charleston, South Carolina – both in which a white police officer shot and killed a black man – police departments nationwide have been working to recruit more officers of colour.
Aside from a disproportionate number of blacks with criminal records, police departments struggle to recruit minority officers because of a long-held distrust of police in many minority communities across the country.
That distrust has been noted as a primary factor in the protests and riots in Ferguson last year and more recently in Baltimore.
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