Justice For All: Police step up efforts to diversify their departments
In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing in Minnesota, police departments across the country and the Hudson Valley are increasing efforts to recruit minority officers.
A recent investigation by USA Today found police departments in the Hudson Valley failed to come close to matching their communities in terms of diversity.
The population of Yonkers, Westchester's largest city, is roughly 60% residents of color. However, the police force remains overwhelmingly white. In an effort to get the force to better reflect the community it serves, the department has launched a new campaign targeted at recruiting minority officers.
Yonkers Police Commissioner John Mueller says the "Be the Hero, Be the Change" initiative is a hyper-focused outreach to people of color to join the Yonkers Police Department. The program offers free tutoring to take the tough police exam.
The Clarkstown Police Department in Rockland County is also stepping up minority recruiting.
Just a few years ago, there were no Black police officers on the force, even though the town's Black population is about 11%. But things are slowly changing. Now there about five Black officers and 16 Hispanic officers on a force of about 160 sworn officers.
Like Yonkers, Clarkstown also has a free tutoring program to help aspiring officers take the civil service exam.
Police Chief Jeff Wanamaker says school resource officers are also helping to get the word out.
Clarkstown also works closely with the NAACP.
An official with the civil rights organization says police departments need to pressure lawmakers to change some rules to get their diversity numbers up. Wilbur Aldridge says they need to urge lawmakers to remove the rule that they choose officers from their own municipalities.
In Ossining, a village that's nearly 50% Hispanic, the police department has a Spanish language Facebook page.
There's also outreach to young people in the community who may be turned off by law enforcement.
Police Chief Kevin Sylvester says police departments need to rebuild bridges and give people back a sense of faith and hope.
Text and reporting by Michelle Brown