The 100th Police Department recruit class -- the first since the city signed a 2009 consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to diversify its police and fire recruits -- had as many minority candidates as the total of the previous three classes.
Among the 24-member class that began in February were six minorities -- four blacks, one Hispanic and one Asian/Pacific Islander, or 25 percent minority. The previous three classes -- November 2006, May 2007 and January of 2008 -- totaled 60 recruits with six minorities, four blacks and two Asian/Pacific, or 10 percent minority.
Twenty-two of the 24 recruits completed the Police Academy and were sworn-in Friday. Of those, 20 are male and two female. One Hispanic male recruit and one white female did not complete the six-month course. The new officers now face a six-month probationary period where they will be partnered with training officers on the streets.
"To some extent it is very difficult to determine if the consent decree is a factor to the added diversity," Assistant Police Chief Bob Chabali said. "We will never know what the results would have been without the decree.
"We're happy with the ratio. These new officers will replenish our manpower and increase our diversity."
Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton unit of the NAACP, likewise was pleased.
"The Dayton unit ... is proud of the newly sworn-in Dayton police officers. ... They all have sworn to protect all the citizens of the greater Dayton metropolitan area," Foward said.
The Justice Department filed suit Sept. 26, 2008, alleging the city engaged "in discriminatory employment practices against African Americans" in its written Civil Service examinations for firefighter and police officer recruits. The lawsuit claimed the test had "a disparate impact" on blacks, and that the city never showed the test was "job related and consistent with business necessities."
According to the Justice Department, 36.8 percent of the city's civilian work force was black. Of police officers, only 9 percent were black.
The city has spent nearly $500,000 to comply with the consent decree and produce a new test for police recruits.
"Since 1970s police departments have been pursuing greater diversity to mirror their community," said Art Jipson, University of Dayton associate professor of sociology and director of the school's Criminal Justice Studies program. "It has been challenging on top of all the other important work the departments have to do.
"Many think it's a lack of political will, plus there are always the lingering aspects of personal and institutional racism."
Lt. Randy Beane , president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said he believes it is not so much a lack of political will as an unwillingness to change the process.
"We continue to do the same thing over and over again and again and expect different results," he said.
Over the past eight previous recruit classes dating back to July 2001, no class had more than four minority recruits, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News through the state's Sunshine Act. Of the 144 prior recruits, only 11 percent, or 16, were minority recruits.
"Nothing is going to change until you get into the schools and break down the barriers that exist," Beane said. "Most of the time kids see police in the wrong light."
Trotwood Police Chief Quincy Pope agrees. The reason he joined law enforcement, he said, can be traced to one Montgomery County deputy sheriff.
"When I was in middle school, we'd be playing basketball on the playground at noon, and this deputy would drive up, take off his gunbelt and join the game," said Pope, who is black. "It was the first time any of us had ever seen an officer as a real person. It started me down a path."
Derric McDonald , the FOP's first vice president, said he was happy to see the number of minority officers increasing. "Perhaps some citizens would feel more comfortable now. But officers are professional and treat others as they would be treated, regardless of race."
McDonald, who is black, suggested the repeal of the residency requirement -- all city employees had to live in the city until the rule was overturned by the state Supreme Court -- opened the job to more people. "There are a lot of suburban officers who want to work for the city, but don't want to live in the city."
Beane is not a fan of the new Civil Service test. The passing rate was lowered at the request of the Justice Department, and the results were made moot when the Civil Service Board chose not rank the candidates on their test scores. Rather, the board relied on the results of candidates' interviews with a hiring panel.
After lowering the passing score, 748 candidates, including 111 blacks and 19 Hispanics, passed. Originally more than 1,000 potential recruits took the test. Of that number, fewer than 500 passed, including 57 of 490 blacks who took the test.
"Diversity cannot mean lowering the standards. Diversity comes from the number of minority candidates," Beane said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Foward said he did not see any drop in the standards. "At the end of the day, all the Justice Department said was 'you need to open up the field'" of candidates. "Every officer still has to pass the same (state) test that every officer must pass."
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