CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Police departments and sheriff's offices typically hope the diversity of their officers reflects the community they are policing.
A Live 5 investigation shows getting and keeping minority officers continues to be a struggle for some local agencies.
We collected data from local agencies to compare five years of demographic trends.
Overall, African American officers are often underrepresented when compared to a city or county's census population.
In several departments, Asian and Hispanic officers were underrepresented or completely unrepresented when compared to the population.
Charleston PD has one of the biggest recruitment efforts.
They have built connections with local universities, churches and community groups to engage with potential recruits.
"This isn't over for us yet- it'll continue to be a challenge," said Lt. Thomas Adams with the Charleston Police Department.
He headed up the agency's recruitment effort, started by the chief in 2010.
"The objective of the recruitment position was to fully staff the Charleston Police Department with emphasis on selecting underrepresented groups to mirror the city that we're policing."
Sgt. Myron Smith is taking over recruitment starting this month, and both officers talked to us about what was accomplished so far and what they'd like to see in the future.
"I would like the department to actually represent, percentage, the people we serve. It would be a great thing," said Sgt. Smith.
According to the latest census from 2010, the City of Charleston is about 25% percent African American.
About 16% of CPD officers are African American.
Even with the appeal of a higher pay scale than other state police departments, tuition reimbursement and being located in a popular city near the beach, CPD says recruiting and keeping minority officers isn't easy.
"In 2016, there have been over 100 officers killed in the line of duty," said Lt. Adams. "That doesn't help recruitment or retention."
Tensions between police and minority communities nationally can add to the challenge.
Plus, all applicants must meet certain education standards.
Adams explains another reason they believe the number of African American officers has decreased in CPD over five years:
"This select pool of candidates that we're looking for- not only are we looking for them, but the federal law enforcement agencies are. They're handpicking our best officers."
He says so far this year, CPD had fifteen minority officers, both men and women, leave for jobs with agencies such as the ATF, FBI, Secret Service, and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Plus, five minority officers retired.
"We get them here, we like to keep them here, but sometimes a better opportunity comes along financially, family. Can't blame them," said Sgt. Smith.
CPD is not alone in these challenges.
We collected data from local law enforcement agencies to see if their demographics reflect diversity in the actual community.
Many agencies admitted recruitment can be a struggle.
Nearly all departments said they require diversity training and fair policing training of their current sworn employees.
"If a community does not trust its policing agency, that's where the issues occur," said Professor Ed Lugo. He is retired from the Secret Service after 25 years of service, and now teaches with The Citadel's Department of Criminal Justice.
"Diversity is an opportunity to leverage access to the community," Lugo explained. "The community is simply more apt to cooperate with people they relate with. So the diversity and demographics of being able to match demographically your police department with your community is a wonderful thing. But that isn't the only answer. Because just getting someone that looks like 'me' doesn't satisfy the recruiting process."
He says officers also need to be smart, charismatic, and empathetic. That's one reason CPD is so focused on the pipeline of local and state colleges and their related internship program.
Lugo added, "The issues of finding these personnel, it is not just law enforcement's responsibility. The community is a stakeholder here. It is their responsibility that if they see a good candidate, they should recruit also. They should make recommendations."
He says a teacher, pastor or business owner may be in a perfect position to keep an eye out for such candidates.
"We just want to sell ourselves as being human beings," said Sgt. Smith. He shared his motto, which he tells potential recruits. "Be a part of the system to make the changes. Right now law enforcement is under a lot of scrutiny. But if you come on board and help us transition to being great and better place to change the system from the inside, not the outside."
We are still awaiting data from a few other departments.
BREAKDOWN OF DATA RECEIVED SO FAR
According to the 2010 Census, 70.2% of the population of Charleston is white, 28.4% African American, 1.6% Asian, and 2.8% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 79.7% of the Charleston Police Department police force is white, 16.3% African American, 2.7% Hispanic, and 1.1% Asian.
In CPD, both the number and percentage of African American officers on the force decreased since 2012. There were 88 African American officers in 2012 and 70 in 2016. The number and percentage of Asian officers more than doubled since 2012 from 2 to 5 officers. There were 12 or 13 Hispanic officers in CPD each year over the last four years. The number of white officers has increased slightly, representing about 80% of the force.
According to the 2010 Census, 41.6% of the population of North Charleston is white, 47.1% African American, 1.9% Asian, and 9.3% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 77.6% of the North Charleston Police Department police force is white, 17.2% African American, 4.1% Hispanic, and 0.9% Asian.
In the NCPD, both the number and percentage of African American officers on the force increased steadily from 50 in 2012 to 64 in 2015. That number then decreased to 59 black officers in 2016. The number and percentage of Hispanic officers increased over five years. The number of Asian officers has been between 1 and 3 over five years. The number of white officers increased from 253 in 2012 to 276 in 2014, then decreased to 267 in 2016. White officers represented 76-80% of the force over the last five years, and represent 77% of the force currently.
According to the 2010 Census, 72% of the population of Summerville is white, 21.4% African American, 1.5% Asian, and 4.9% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 86.4% of the Summerville Police Department police force is white, 8.3% African American, 4.1% Hispanic, and 1% Pacific Islander.
In the SPD, the overall number of black officers decreased from 10 in 2012 to 8 in 2016. There were 2 to 4 Hispanic officers on the force from 2012 to 2016. There was one Pacific Islander officer on the force each year. The number of white officers increased from 59 in 2012 to 83 in 2016, currently representing about 86% of the force.
According to the 2010 Census, 71.2% of the population of Goose Creek is white, 18.2% African American, 3.7% Asian, and 6.8% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 84.1% of the Goose Creek Police Department police force is white, 6.3% African American, 7.9% Hispanic, and 1.5% other.
In the GCPD the number of black police officers increased from 1 in 2012 to 4 in 2016. Black officers currently make up 4.6% of the force. The number of Hispanic officers also increased, from 3 in 2012 to 5 in 2016, currently representing about 6.1% of the force. The number of white officers increased from 35 in 2012 to 53 in 2016, currently representing about 84% of the force.
GCPD's spokesperson said they are aware the department in underrepresented by African American officers. "GCPD routinely reaches out to our NAACP branch, minority church leaders, and others requesting assistance with recruiting minority applicants. Recruiters attend job fairs at TTC and other venues," he said. The department hosts monthly character development sessions which can include diversity training.
According to the 2010 Census, 63.1% of the population of Georgetown County is white, 33.6% African American, 0.4% Asian, and 2.7% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 82.2% of Georgetown County Sheriff's Office sworn personnel are white and 17.8% are African American.
In the GCSO, the number of African American sworn personnel increased from 12 in 2012 to 18 in 2016, remaining 17-18% of the force overall. The number of white sworn personnel increased from 57 in 2012 to 83 in 2016, representing 80-83% of the force in that time period. The department had no Asian, Hispanic or other minority officers listed under employment in that time frame.
GCSO's spokesperson says they believe their personnel reflects diversity in the community. They host annual trainings covering biased-based profiling and ethics, cultural diversity and citizen's academy activities. GCSO also says daily citizen interactions and festivals throughout the year help promote cultural diversity. "We recruit the best applicants which reflect our diverse community through career fairs at high schools within our county school district and social media."
According to the 2010 Census, 31.7% of the population of Williamsburg County is white, 65.8% African American, 0.4% Asian, and 2.1% are another race or ethnicity.
Currently, 66.6% of Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office sworn personnel are African American and 33.3% are white.
In the Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office, the number of deputies overall has decreased by five. The number of African American deputies decreased from 25 in 2012 to 20 in 2016. The number of white deputies remained at 9 or 10 over the last five years. There are no Hispanic, Asian or other minority deputies listed under employment in that time frame.
WCSO's spokesperson said their personnel reflects diversity in their community, as the county is predominantly African American. "This year our department conducted cultural diversity training for the first time… the training was very beneficial when coming into contact with citizens," explained their spokesperson. "Looking into the future, we are thinking about a recruiting program. The agency has not actively recruited applicants in the past. The number of employees has remained the same due to a limited budget."