Editorial: Black arrests up, police recruits down
The numbers show two perspectives of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s relationship with black people.
But are they telling the same story?
On Monday, the Black Political Empowerment Project pointed to the data from the latest class of police recruits as a “serious disappointment.”
The numbers show just four black men in an 84-person class. That’s 4% — a drop in the bucket compared with the city’s 25% black population. It doesn’t even reflect the 13.31% black makeup of the department’s 879-person force.
So why are the numbers so far down?
Maybe it has something to do with the other statistics that came to light this week.
On Tuesday, an annual report broke down the number of arrests by the department.
It showed a 26% drop in overall arrests, and that’s good. But a look at those 9,992 interactions shows a disproportionate number involve black people — 60% of the total.
But digging further into the total might say more about the police recruiting class. The largest single group arrested isn’t just blacks, but black men ages 19 to 29, who represented 17% of arrests.
In other words, the people most likely to be arrested are the people who could provide a real boost to the number of minority police recruits.
Read the comments on this story, and you can see what many readers think — the people being arrested are the people committing the crimes. That’s not an unreasonable assumption.
University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris says that can be misleading, and reflects more of a chicken-and-egg situation. If a lot of police are in an area patrolling, they are probably going to find crime. Where you place the police could create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Regardless of the why, it does make sense that individuals who are placed in conflict with police are less likely to want to join their ranks. And that’s a shame.
Maybe if more police interaction with black men in that critical group — or even younger — was more positive, the idea of wearing a badge would be more attractive.
Because the good people in uniform deserve to be mentors and role models, like Officer Calvin Hall, who was shot trying to protect others and died Wednesday.
We need more Calvin Halls.