Councilmember looks to HBCUs to diversify Philadelphia Police Department

Times have changed, and finding police officers for the future isn't as easy as it used to be.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, September 27, 2021
Councilmember looks to HBCUs to diversify Philly police
The pursuit of diversity has led some police departments to look for candidates at colleges.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- "When I was a kid," said Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., "everybody wanted to be an astronaut, president of the United States, or a policeman."

But times have changed, and finding police officers for the future isn't as easy as it used to be.

That's why Jones has introduced a proposal that would create a partnership with two of Pennsylvania's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to aid in recruiting more diverse candidates for the police force.

"In 2021, we have to do things that are different," said Gregory Earle, a Delaware State Trooper and vice president of the Delaware Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

The pursuit of diversity has led some police departments to look for candidates at colleges.

"The partnership that we have with (Delaware State University and) Delaware State Police, as well as other agencies, is priceless," said Earle.

That partnership began in 2005, giving students access to NOBLE members for mentorship, training and advice on starting careers in law enforcement. The partnership goes hand-in-hand with the University's Criminal Justice Program.

"This practical component is just as important to their learning as the theoretical component," said Kimeu Boynton, assistant professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice."

"We have about 30 graduates who are in law enforcement - different agencies, local and federal," said Sherri Tull-Hubbard, president of the NOBLE Delaware Chapter. "Students can get a great example of what it is to join law enforcement from the ground up."

Philadelphia is hoping for the same result. Councilmember Jones (District 4) introduced the resolution at the most recent council meeting seeking to create partnerships with Cheyney University and Lincoln University.

"Seventy percent of the people who apply (for the police force) are people of color. And it bumps down to 29% of the people who make it through are people of color," said Jones, adding that he's also had concerns with how young people perceive the profession of being a police officer. The resolution is also an attempt to improve that perception.

According to the 6abc Data Team, the Philadelphia Police Department falls short when it comes to recruiting Black officers. The data team found that 40.1% of Philadelphia's residents are Black, but only 30.8% of its officers are Black.

As the partnership at Delaware State sees, some diverse candidates are eliminated before they even apply.

"A lot of our students are eliminated before they even become eligible to take the job because of social issues like credit or experimentation with drugs, some misdemeanor criminal history that could have been resolved before they even applied," said NOBLE Delaware Chapter Member William Chapman.

The proposal in Philadelphia would be modeled after a similar program at Lincoln University in Missouri with a curriculum that trains students in the criteria to be qualified applicants who could help diversify the force.

"Design a program that would be a direct pipeline to the Philadelphia Police Department and their careers," said Jones.

The resolution is still in the early phase. The next step is to have hearings involving police, the community and the universities. If they come up with a plan that the council approves, the programs could be up and running by this time next year.