CHICAGO (AP) – A campaign to increase diversity in the ranks of the Chicago Police Department has resulted in a 13 percentage point jump in minority applicants, the department said in an announcement emphasizing its efforts to restore frayed trust with the black community.
About 70 percent of the 14,000 would-be officers in a recent pool of applicants are black, Hispanic or Asian, the department said in Monday's news release. Recruiters visited churches, schools and community events, and the department produced ads in Spanish as well as English.
The minority recruitment drive is part of the department's efforts to rebuild ties with the community that were badly damaged by recent cases of alleged misconduct against blacks, including the 2014 killing of a black teenager shot 16 times by a white officer. The release in November of squad car video showing that killing set off protests and triggered a federal civil rights investigation.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has responded by promising a thorough overhaul of the police department's leadership and the "culture" of policing in Chicago.
"To continue restoring trust between the police and communities across Chicago, we must build a police force that represents the diversity of the entire city," Emanuel said in a news release Monday to announce the recruitment numbers.
Activist and pastor Jedidiah Brown, who has been part of both protests and meetings with the mayor about policing, said there's a difference between recruiting applicants and actually putting them into uniforms on the streets.
"They've had many black applicants in times past, but they were not hired," he said. "Unless that changes, I'm not impressed."
Applicants must pass a written exam, attend the Police Academy and serve as a probationary officer before becoming full-fledged officers.
Minorities made up 58 percent of the total applicant pool in the last recruiting campaign, in 2013, according to Police Department data. Of those who actually took the written test in 2010, 53 percent were minorities.
There is some research showing a more diverse police force has important symbolic value and can influence attitudes, but it is just one piece of building a better relationship with the community, said Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
"Increasing the share of the police force that is minority is not a panacea for improving police-community relations," Ludwig said. Police also need to interact with people outside of responding to 911 calls through things like foot patrols and community meetings, he said.