Police relations with the African-American community have
been particularly challenging going back to the civil
disturbances of the 1960s. The 2005 North Toledo riots, the
result of a planned march by members of the National
Socialist Movement, who hurled insults and racial slurs at
the black community members while the Toledo Police
Department protected the group, brought the relations to a
What may take place in the future however, may seem like an
apocalypse compared to 2005 if the city also allows the
police department to continue to lighten over the next five
to seven years as the current crop of black officers
retires. With minority replacement officers nowhere in sight
in recent recruiting classes, the department runs the risk
of being perceived by the community as a hostile occupying
"We definitely need [minority recruits]," lamented one high
ranking TPD officer. It is common knowledge that the lack of
minority officers leads to disproportionate minority
contact, profiling or bias issues.
"Departments are just not as effective unless they are
reflective of the community," added another long-term
minority officer. "It's helpful to have black officers in
the community who have a mutuality of experience, know how
to talk with the residents and can interpret, interact and
de-escalate situations effectively. There is a certain
cultural competency for the 'hood that allows some officers
to investigate better. We have had situations in the past
where we couldn't solve homicides in the central city
because no one would talk until black detectives were hired
and put on those cases," the officer further asserted.
Why haven't there been more black and brown officers
recruited to replace those hired under legal mandate during
First of all, "too often good candidates are being knocked
out of the applicant pool," states a demonstrative Harold
Mosley, president of the African American Police League. "I
have a concern about the characteristics used to determine
what makes a candidate in today's police environment to be
Indeed, research also suggests that it is perhaps time to
move beyond thinking about the police personality as having
unique characteristics or that only certain people make good
cops. Rather, general desirable traits - someone who is
bright, personable, communicates well, and is conscientious
- are likely to produce as good a police officer as for any
The effect of using the old police"desirable traits" model
has led to blacks taking themselves out of the process
because they feel that they have little chance of actually
becoming an officer. The first stage of recruitment begins
with a very small pool of applicants who fill out interest
cards. A large proportion of those who complete the cards do
not show up for the civil service exam. Then further
attrition occurs as from those that don’t pass the test or
fail to successfully navigate the remainder of the process.
The power to modernize the process and reverse black
applicant despair lies with the City's Human Resources
Department and with Civil Service. City of Toledo's HR
department oversees the City's policies. Civil Service, with
two African-American members - Marjorie Holt and Wilma
Brown, administer the testing and oversee assessment.
Yet there are other challenges to recruiting a diverse
police force beyond changing political and organizational
Police officer salaries begin at $44,428.80 for a trainee
and $49,982.40 after one year. Yet young people are not
responding to police recruiting efforts. Many young people
will instead settle for a maximum $2,000 per month selling
drugs or other legitimate but low-paying jobs.
"There is no way I'd ever work for the police," says Robert,
an industrious former Cherrywood resident who works as a
temporary in a small parts assembly shop. "I had a bad
experience with them, don't like them and don't trust them."
Shaina, his girl friend and college sophomore adds, "It's
not about the money. I would rather work as a social worker,
or even nurse or in child care."
With recent research showing that black youth are arrested
for drug crimes at a rate 10 times higher than that of
whites while young blacks are actually less likely to use
drugs, there is definitely substance to the feelings of
mistrust held by young black men.
Yet legal strategies have been challenging as courts have
recently required proof of intent to discriminate making
disparate impact and bias difficult to prove.
In order to develop a diverse representative police force,
we need to consider the cultural preferences of those like
Shaina and Robert in our recruiting strategies and emphasize
police work as a helping profession aiding the community and
providing assistance to families and citizens.
Finally, we also need a clear, committed and
community-driven action response to the situation that says
to the powers-that-be that, lack of diversity is a problem.
But also, emphatically says, that we are willing to work
alongside you to effect change, but we will not accept the
bleaching of the police department and the ineffective
policing of our community.
Rev. Dr. Donald Perryman at
A Lighter Shade of Blue