Recent census data shows that, for the first time in U.S.
history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority
groups. Ironically, as we rapidly approach the dawn of this
new era in which whites no longer will be in the majority,
the number of African-American officers on the Toledo Police
Force may have dwindled to a mere handful by the time these
babies enter middle school.
In 1985, black police personnel reached a peak of 133,
largely as beneficiaries of a lawsuit filed against the City
of Toledo alleging discriminatory employment and promotional
practices. A consent decree required TPD’s personnel data to
reflect the community’s demographics.
However, the decree was dismissed in the fall of 2010 and at
a time when the number of black male officers has dropped
nearly a third from a high of 98 to 68. The total number of
black officers are also down 27 percent as compared to the
20 percent decline in the overall department since 1985. New
police classes are few and far between and African-American
recruits are a rare sight even when classes do take place.
“We know what’s at stake,” states Sgt. Harold E. Mosely,
president of the African American Police League. “The
question is how are we going to address the attrition and
have a police force that is representative of the community.
The city has known for a long time that this day would come
and is now here, but the issue has been ignored. The failure
to aggressively recruit and add quality officers of color
invites the perception of bias and possibly points to
another lawsuit,” he adds.
With a police class of 40 persons off the current exam list
scheduled to begin in September and an additional class
scheduled in 2013 from a new eligibility list, the city is
looking at better ways to recruit, according to Safety
Director Shirley Green, Ph.D.
“We received a COPS grant, so 15 persons will be military
veterans which will open up some avenues for minorities.
Army recruiters have offered to help and we are also looking
at laid off Detroit police officers for our 2013 class,”
However, the greater challenge to bringing more officers of
color onto the force may be the City’s hiring process and
TPD’s traditional, status quo organizational mindset and
Recruits are required to first score well on the civil
service exam. They must then pass a background check, do
well on an oral interview and get through the academy.
Additionally, police hopefuls must undergo a medical exam,
endure a written and an oral psychological evaluation and
finally, perform a physical agility test.
Yet for minorities, the difficulty of the process lies not
so much in its comprehensiveness, but in the subjectivity of
the selection criteria, which many believe targets blacks
The paramilitary hierarchal structure of the police
department often subtly, but powerfully, encourages peer
evaluators to go along with the status quo during oral
interviews. Those screeners whose opinions do not fit in
with the traditional mindset could find themselves isolated
and alienated in the department. Finding officers willing to
deviate from traditional unwritten rules in evaluating
minorities can be challenging.
In addition, the city, according to Green, uses a behavioral
assessment tool that it has developed on its own rather than
using a validated tool linking behavior to job performance
in the selection process. The current assessment tool
potentially has little or no relevance to the job of
Also, the background check is based upon a points list which
provides minus points but not pluses and often disqualifies
potential recruits for minor or youthful indiscretions from
the distant past which may not be true indicators of
“It’s not that the city is not trying,” Green asserts. “But
the issue is how do we get young people excited about police
and fire careers. How can the departments be reflective of
the community without stigmas being attached? We are dealing
with the issues we need to make it happen because we want
our departments to be legitimate in the eyes of the
For certain, new partnerships with the community, more trust
and mutual respect are needed since TPD must “police by
consent” if it is to be effective. Young people who view
police as legitimate are more likely to break their “stop
snitching” code of silence and cooperate to solve and
prevent crime. However, youth must feel that the department
is fair in all regards before it grants a stamp of approval
on police authority.
Finally, when it comes to the sensitive and controversial
issues of police personnel administration and recruitment of
minority officers, the capacity for change lies with the
political power of the mayor and the institutional influence
and authority of the police chief.
Only Mayor Mike Bell and Chief Derrick Diggs have enough
“juice” to change police personnel policy and create the
organizational culture to support a validated, job-related
process to identify and hire quality minority officers.
The amount of political will that Bell and Diggs are
“packing” will determine whether the complexion of the
police department continues to lighten or if we must return
to the dark days of our legal past.
Rev. Dr. Donald Perryman at