Would More Black Officers Prevent Situations such as Ferguson?

August 27th 2014

Alece Oxendine

Mike Brown's murder in Ferguson, MO puts law enforcement in a tough spot. The police have been seen as too militaristic and aggressive. But could the involvement of more black officers have eased the tension or prevented many protests from happening?

Currently there are only 3 black officers on Ferguson’s 53-member police force. That’s only 6% of the police force in a town that’s over 60% black.

The National Black Police Association suggests that diversifying police forces from top to bottom is the best way to enhance racial sensitivity and prevent cases like Mike Brown’s from happening in the future. In a video posted on their website, they emphasize that departments “must mirror and reflect the communities [they] serve.” A great example of this is Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. When the Highway Patrol stepped into Ferguson, Captain Johnson kept the peace by walking with protesters, actually listening to their concerns and the protestors responded positively.

Capt Ron Johnson

So why are there hardly any black police officers in Ferguson? The mayor of Ferguson claims that “there's also the problem that a lot of young African-American people don't want to go into law enforcement. They already have this disconnect with law enforcement, so if we find people who want to go into law enforcement who are African-American we're all over it because we want them to help us bridge the gap." He also claims that the "pool of black officer candidates is low and that other larger departments are better at recruitment because they can pay more and offer more opportunities for advancement."

But despite these claims, hundreds of police departments in America have gotten rid of their affirmative action programs. According to a 2012 study, "black employment growth was significantly lower in departments after affirmative action ended than in departments whose plans continued." It appears that greater resources for minority outreach and targeted recruitment campaigns are still necessary.