Cincinnati police work to increase racial diversity in its ranks, but still doesn't mirror community

Recruiting young people of various races key

CINCINNATI – Police Officer Phill Black grew up as an African-American in Bond Hill and became a Cincinnati police officer nearly three decades ago.

He’s experienced the leadership of several chiefs with varied and distinctive management styles, a litany of violence-reduction initiatives and the race riots of 2001. But the dearth of African-American representation in law enforcement is eye opening to him.

While he and Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell say the department has made significant strides in hiring black officers over the years, the force doesn’t adequately mirror the demographics of the city it serves. 

“Diversity brings perspective,” Blackwell said. “Perspective helps shape our enforcement models. If we don’t have some of the perspective, I think you can get one-sided about how you attack crime and relate to folks.”

Of the 960 sworn officers on the force, 297 are black or 31 percent, according to a police personnel records. In a city that’s roughly evenly spilt evenly among blacks and whites, it’s critical for the department to boost that percentage, they say.

“Not that much has changed over the last 10 to 20 years,” said Black, president of the Sentinel Police Association, which represents black officers in the department. “We’ve had one African-American captain promoted in the last 10 years and the numbers have been constant for sometime."

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