Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

The NYPD Can't Hire Black Officers Because It's Hassled Too Many Black Men

from the sabotaged-by-its-own-policing dept

You can’t build a better police force if you can’t get anybody to apply for the job. Perhaps this partially explains the hesitance of law enforcement agencies to rid themselves of badly-behaving officers. Without a healthy pool of potential hires to pull from, attrition can become a real problem.

Many people are dissuaded from pursuing law enforcement careers after negative interactions with officers. This is where agencies are hurting themselves. Racism in law enforcement is a problem that can’t be ignored. Some of it is overt. And some of it is the only conclusion you can draw when incidents like the following occur.

Twelve McKinney, TX, police officers responded to a complaint about teens at a local, private pool. Like too many interactions, it escalated far too quickly, beginning with Officer Eric “Barrel Roll” Casebolt (who has since resigned) tumbling into the frame of the cell phone video before yelling at/cuffing anything black, culminating in him throwing a 14-year-old black girl to the ground and sitting on her, only momentarily interrupted by him chasing off two black teens who tried to come to her aid by pointing his pistol at them.

The teen who recorded this incident was white. No orders were ever yelled at him, despite him being close to the action and openly recording Casebolt’s one-man raid. (If anyone can explain Big & Khaki’s purpose/position in this incident, I’d love to hear it.) What was actually in the heart and mind of Officer Casebolt we’ll never know. But we can certainly see what it looks like. And what it looks like is black=bad and everyone else of other races not worth giving a second look.

If this mindset — or this appearance — is ever going to change, there needs to be some more diversity in the police workforce. I’m not suggesting another mutation of affirmative action, but it would probably help community relations if responding officers had a bit more in common with those they’re policing. As was noted in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, minorities were routinely being charged with the pettiest of violations (and arrested when fines weren’t paid) by a police force that was predominantly white. In many other cases, it’s been pointed out that many police forces not only do not mesh with the racial makeup of their communities, but often live miles away from the places they patrol — distancing themselves both literally and figuratively from the people they serve.

In New York City, years of “broken windows” policing and stop-and-frisk tactics have combined to ensure its force won’t be less white nor less disconnected from the communities the officers patrol, at least not for the forseeable future.

Commissioner William Bratton is blunt about probable causes. “We have a significant population gap among African American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” he said in a 20 May interview. Because many black men have been convicted of a felony, they are automatically disqualified.

This is a problem — not just for the NYPD — but for policing as a whole. Bratton (who has since clarified this remark — more on that in a bit) is going to have trouble finding minority officers because his force spent most of the last 25 years either busting them for petty crimes (the “broken windows”) or shoving them up against the nearest wall for suspicionless questionings and patdowns. Those who could make a positive impact due to their rapport with the communities they serve (because they grew up/live there) are already disqualified from serving.

As noted, Bratton has clarified this statement:

Bratton said that when he had raised the “unfortunate consequences” of an explosion in stop-and-frisk tactics as one of the factors behind a difficulty in recruiting African American officers, he had meant that being the subject of such stops could discourage black people from applying.

“Stop, question and frisk is not preventing people from coming on the job,” Bratton said on Wednesday. “It’s not something that prohibits them. What it might do, however, because of a negative interaction with a New York City police officer – why would they want to become a New York City cop when they feel that they’ve been inappropriately dealt with in stop, question and frisk?”

While this points out that summons and misdemeanor charges won’t keep black men from joining the NYPD, it doesn’t make things much better. In fact, given the pervasiveness of stop-and-frisk, it possibly makes things worse. Rather than just disqualifying felons, it has alienated thousands more who were never arrested or charged. Their only interactions with the NYPD have been of the “hassled” variety — stopped, patted down and questioned simply for being black, young and living in their own neighborhoods.

Now that stop-and-frisk has been dialed back significantly (only 48,000 last year — compared to 4 million stops from 2002-2013), there’s a chance this may, at some point in the future, pose less of a problem. This unconstitutional program — in addition to alienating black applicants — decimated the NYPD applicant pool for several years before someone finally realized what was happening.

Bratton said on Wednesday that at one time, police department applications had included a question about whether the applicant had ever been the subject of stop-and-frisk. But answering “yes” would not have disqualified the applicant, he said.

“We changed that question,” Bratton said at the press conference. “They were asked starting in 2009 and 10, ‘Have you been, basically the subject of a stop?’ We took a look at that as part of the changes we were making as part of the overall stop, question and frisk program. We changed that question. Because really it was not a qualifier … It’s really information that’s of no use or value to us in the application process.”

Nearly 400,000 stops a year means tossing out tons of applications, presuming even a small percentage of those stopped weren’t already deterred from entering the police force thanks to these largely-negative interactions.

But this isn’t just an NYPD problem. It’s a problem for all police forces who spend most of their time coming down hard on minorities by enforcing petty ordinances to the nth degree or doing what Officer Casebolt did in the above situation — “busting” black kids while whites and other minorities roamed free. If this sort of thing remains unchecked, hiring policies alone will prevent police forces from being more representative of the communities they serve. Left untouched, this will result in more and more agencies becoming predominantly composed of white officers, even as the population being policed remains a blend of minorities.

On top of any present racism (something unavoidable when hiring humans), the increasingly homogeneous police force will only exacerbate “us vs. them” thinking, as hired officers will be pulled from a pool of people who’ve never experienced the negative aspects of law enforcement.

The fix isn’t Affirmative-Action-on-steroids. The solution is the elimination of tactics that lend themselves to racist behavior and further drive a wedge between the policed and the police. The only way to ensure you can get the best — and most useful — police officers is to stop preemptively culling your potential workforce with abusive behavior and policies. Internal housecleaning is also in order, but what the NYPD’s experience shows is that bad policies lead to the continued deterioration of the police force… which leads to the continued deterioration of policework… and so on, until your police force bears almost no resemblance to the communities it polices.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The NYPD Can't Hire Black Officers Because It's Hassled Too Many Black Men”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

The thing is, succesful black people are a lot higher than simple cops and most of the less succesful could not be legally hired for the mentioned reasons.

As for the usual “racist cops” crap
Ofcourse they are hitting them harder, they are harrassing people with their petty crimes like damaging property or the “knockout game”. Tbh, i would take a “racist” police over one that chooses to be ignorant of crimes like child rape (like in the UK) because they are afraid of being called racists.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

I would discourage anyone from joining a police departmet or security force.

And those people I know who are on them already, I’d encourage to quit if they can find decent gainful employment in another field.

Precincts are now no different than the enforcement arm of criminal mobs, and the department of justices is no better than a crime syndicate. The only difference is that their protection is paid from state funds.

Heck, one would think the relationship between state funds and collected taxes would be noticed and regarded as paying protection, but the police don’t recognize that association and will happily pugilize a taxpayer that looks at them wrong.

Don’t be a cop.

If you are a cop, quit.

jim says:

Re: I would discourage anyone from joining a police departmet or security force.

But, how do they not reflect what the community wants? Even on the charged departments, where there is the most diversity, where the bully cops live, they have forgotten, to recruit the locals. The people of the streets. But they will eagerly find some blacklisted, fired out of work pig cop bully. Why?

Where do the Chldren Play? says:

Well odviously

How would those N**s know cop math, they are clearly not dishonest or deceitful enough, I mean really they are all like drug dealers where math is important being truthful and accurate is also important how on earth could those c**ns know anything relevant to being a cop, I mean sure some of them know about murder and thuggery but most where not born into suburban white families so, what are you supposed to do..


Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Possible Solution

I’m pretty sure they don’t receive that sort of training at the police academy. I’m sure that their buddies showed them they could get away with this sort of bad-cop chicanery once they were rookies on the field.

And if stories from NYPD are true, they are mandated by their superiors to so engage civilians by booking them for stupid charges.

Ken Litzke (profile) says:

Big & Khaki

(If anyone can explain Big & Khaki’s purpose/position in this incident, I’d love to hear it.) I was wondering to, your comment spurred my research.

A little digging around shows that he’s the community manager of the Homeowners Association ( and assistant to Officer Casebolt ). Or was, as he’s no longer employed by the Homeowners Association since this incident. His name can also be found, but I won’t post it here.

Jerry3130 says:

Author's suggestion to this

“years of “broken windows” policing and stop-and-frisk tactics have combined to ensure its force won’t be less white”

So author’s suggestion to this is to let go of these “petty” crime so that these criminal can be eligible to become a police officer. I hope these “petty” crime officers will be dispatched to the author’s neighborhood only.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Is it acceptable to hope you get busted for such a "petty crime" that yo're already committing?

I keep forgetting if it’s three felonies a day or six a day that the average American commits. And usually the ones for which people of color get busted (and occasionally gunned down) aren’t even those, but come down to contempt of cop or out-of-order eye-contact or insufficient grovelling.

I won’t hope that you get so busted for what really are non-crimes or violations of stupid laws, but really only because I can then enjoy the pride of being in this moment a more nobile person than you.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...