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Police Recruiting HBCU Grads; But Will That Reduce Incidents?

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

Winston-Salem, Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia are among several local police departments that say they are actively recruiting HBCU grads who would work in local police departments that are typically comprised of more than 66 percent white officers nationwide.

The new HBCU recruitment effort does not specify the total number of HBCU graduates who will pass basic training requirements, receive a badge at swearing-in ceremonies and actually serve as police officers. But, according to recent news reports, Winston Salem State University grads will reportedly receive college scholarship funds. Baltimore recently unveiled a 10-week internship that aims to recruit students and recent graduates of Morgan State University and Coppin State University. Philadelphia recently introduced legislation that will partner two HBCUs with police departments, in an effort to increase diversity in law enforcement.

Critics argue the HBCU hiring program is a PR gimmick. LaTonya Goldsby, president and co-founder of the Cleveland chapter of Black Lives Matter, said the problem is an HBCU grad from these four HBCUs could fulfill all admission requirements and still be subject to a local police network’s silent, harsh and unwritten codes.

“The truth is Black police officers kill Black people, too, and once they become a part of the blue line, they are no longer Black. They’re blue,” Goldsby recently told Yahoo News. “Which means they must conform to the ways of the blue line,” Goldsby said.

Census reports show police departments are 66 percent white and just 13 percent Black nationwide.

“We need authentic and empathetic Black leadership, not smiling Black faces in high places,” Goldsby said.

However, Kirk Burkhalter, a retired NYPD Detective and advocate for police reform said, “Black folks have been serving this country in the military, in civil and public service. So why should this be an area where Black folks cannot be trusted to think for themselves? What is the alternative?”

Records show the number of Black people killed by police has actually increased over the last two years.

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The most recently reported incident (as of Jan. 23) occurred on Jan. 7 in Memphis, Tenn., where five police officers were suspended from duty after police video showed them beating Tyre Nichols for three minutes after a traffic stop. Nichols, a Black man, died. All five officers are Black.

On Jan. 2, 2023, a Black unarmed teacher from Washington, D.C. was tasered to death in Los Angeles during a hit and run investigation. Keenan Anderson, the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, died at an L.A. hospital on Jan. 3 about four and a half hours after he was tasered before he was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The LAPD reported cocaine and marijuana were found in Anderson’s blood, however, the Los Angeles County Coroner has yet to rule on the cause of Anderson’s death, according to news reports.

According to Washington Post data, police shot and killed at least 1,176 people nationwide in 2022, the most since the newspaper began tracking fatal shootings by officers in 2015. That is more than the 1,021 shootings in 2020 and the 999 in 2019. This means only about a week-and-a half passed when police did not actually kill anyone during a 12-day span in 2022. Blacks are three times more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer, than Whites, despite the fact that Black suspects are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than Whites.

Twenty seven percent of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021 were Black, according to Mapping Police Violence, a nonprofit group that tracks police shootings.

“The system wasn’t built to protect Black people,” Karundi Williams, the CEO of re:power, a national organization that trains Black people to become political leaders, told NBC News in a March 3, 2022 interview.

“And until we get to the root cause of policing and police brutality and the differences in the way police treat Black folks versus White folks, we’re not going to get to change.”

A July 2021 Gallup poll showed 27 percent of Black adults in the U.S. said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, up from 18 percent in 2020 but similar to the levels seen between 2014 and 2019.

Meanwhile, White Americans’ confidence in police was unchanged from a year ago and lower than it had been before the George Floyd incident. In 2021, 51 percent of all U.S. adults said they had confidence in the police, after it dropped to a low of 48 in 2020.

Some white police officers have posted their views online. For example, The North Charleston, SC, police department fired an officer for posting a photo of himself wearing Confederate flag underwear, days after a white supremacist killed nine black worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church just miles away. He later settled a wrongful termination suit.

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In another instance, the Chicago Police Department tried unsuccessfully to fire an officer whose own commander complained of his prejudiced views. A Facebook page called Chicago Code Blue attracted attention for racist posts such as “Every Thug Deserves a Slug” — after an officer was found guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald.

About 1 in 5 of the current officers, and 2 in 5 of the retired officers, who made public posts or social media comments, were included in a recent Facebook study of police posts launched by The Plain View Project, headed by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White.

At least 72 officers were assigned to desk duty, after Baker-White released her Facebook report on White officers. Baker-White said she reviewed Facebook posts from about 2,900 officers from eight departments across the country and an additional 600 retired officers from those same departments.

Baker-White told The Washington Post she decided to start the project after she saw troubling Facebook posts written by police during her fellowship at the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia. One social media post showed a growling bulldog displaying his teeth.

Photo: Kat Wilcox 923681

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