Kent police trying to recruit more minorities to bridge diversity gap
KENT — If a police department reflects the people in its community, the city of Kent has a way to go.
It has one of the largest disparities in the country between the number of minorities who live there and the number of minorities on the police force.
Diversifying the department is high on the priority list these days.
“I think it`s on everyone`s mind at this point and we want to be a department and an agency that reflects our community,” said detective Melanie Frazier, a spokeswoman for the Kent Police Department.
That has been a challenge. According to the 2010 Census, Kent’s population is 55 percent white, while the police force is 85 percent white. That’s one of the largest gaps in the country.
“It's something we`ve been working towards, getting more black faces, more minority faces, in this city,” said Brenda Fincher, a leader in Kent's black community and recently elected to the City Council.
She has been pushing for more diversity in the police force since the '90s. She said she is encouraged that the department is doing more to recruit minorities, something she calls critical.
Frazier, who is also black, said, “There has been many occasions where I`ve been told by the public that it`s good to see a black female on the force.”
While Frazier would also like to see more people of color on the force, she said it is often the testing process and the probation period that keeps a lot of applicants from wearing a badge. Ultimately, she wants to serve with the best officers possible.
“For me, it`s about who`s going to be the best out there and who's going to have my back.”
The department does say the numbers are getting better. Of the 13 applicants this summer to make it to an interview with the chief, six were white and seven were diverse. And next month, the city will conduct a study on how to cut down on the number of applicants lost during the testing process.