Democratic mayors run America’s biggest cities, with a few exceptions. These mayors have long promised to deliver police forces that look like the communities they police. Some have succeeded. But in the wake of widespread protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody, one must ask whether officers’ racial and ethnic “diversity” truly makes a difference in public perception of the police.
Diversity didn’t make much difference in Baltimore in 2015 when it saw protests and riots after the death of black suspect Freddie Gray. At the time of Gray’s death, the mayor was black, as were the top two officials running the police department. The Maryland state attorney, who filed charges against the six officer defendants, was black. Of the six officers charged, three were black, as was the judge before whom two of the officers tried their cases. The majority in Baltimore’s City Council was black, as was the United States attorney general and, of course, the president of the United States. This didn’t stop accusations of police misconduct. It didn’t stop rioting.
Or take Los Angeles, where some protesters, allegedly angry over the death of George Floyd, looted stores and torched police cars. The City of Los Angeles has almost 4 million residents. The racial demographics, according to 2019 Census Bureau estimates, are as follows:
0.2% Pacific Islander
0.7% Native American
As of April 12, the LAPD had 10,013 sworn officers, with a racial and ethnic breakdown as follows:
49.3% or 4,941 Hispanic
30.1% or 3,012 white
9.6% or 962 black
7.8% or 783 Asian
2.5% or 247 Filipino American
0.3% or 33 Native American
0.3% or 35 other
From 1992 to 2002, the Los Angeles Police Department had back-to-back black police chiefs, the first one appointed by the city’s first black mayor. That’s right, during the O.J. Simpson case, the LAPD was led by Willie Williams, its first black chief. Because of the allegations of police misconduct made during the Simpson trial, Williams did a departmentwide review to determine the validity of the allegations. His report found no evidence whatsoever of police misconduct. But for those who insisted that Simpson was an innocent man framed by the racist LAPD, neither Williams nor his report made any difference.
In New York City, rioters looted stores in Manhattan and the other boroughs. How diverse and representative is the approximately 36,000-member New York City Police Department compared with the demographics of the city?
New York City 2019 Census Bureau estimates:
0.1% Pacific Islander
0.4% Native American
29% or 10,526 Hispanic
47% or 17,192 white
15% or 5,515 black
9% or 3,120 Asian
0.08% or 27 Native American
As to the narrative that blacks hate and fear the police, polls say otherwise. As to whether Americans are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with local police, a Monmouth University poll found that both blacks (21% very; 51% somewhat) and whites (45% very; 27% somewhat) gave responses that totaled 72%. This does not exactly add up to a plea to “defund the police.” As rapper Tupac Shakur said in a 1994 interview, blacks living in the ghetto fear and oppose the same criminal “villain” element that police fear and oppose.
The racial “diversity” achieved by city police departments, as in New York City and Los Angeles, has not and will not stop charges of “institutional racism” as long as many of the “reformers'” true intent is for black criminals to go unpunished.
Larry Elder is a bestselling author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host. His latest book, “The New Trump Standard,” is available in paperback from Amazon.comand for Nook, Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an “Elderado,” visit www.LarryElder.com. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryElder.