The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Police Chief Graham says Cedar Rapids has too few black police officers; recruiting officers of any race difficult these days, he says

In Neighborhoods, Police Department on April 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Police Chief Greg Graham says the 200-officer Cedar Rapids Police Department should have more than three black police officers.

The matter came up Thursday afternoon as Graham took an hour’s worth of questions on a wide range of subjects from the editorial staff and from reporters at The Gazette.

The question about black police officers was posed in the wake of an assault on a Cedar Rapids police officer by three black youth, an assault that has left the officer in the hospital in guarded condition and has increased the city’s police presence in neighborhoods with larger black populations.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, too, the city’s Civil Rights Commission is sponsoring a forum at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in the Wellington Heights Neighborhood to discuss criminal violence and neighborhood police presence.

The diversity of a city’s police force, the chief said Thursday, should “mirror” the diversity of the city, and three black officers, he said, is too few for a city like Cedar Rapids. The shortage of black officers is something he noticed early on after assuming the chief’s job in June 2008, he said.

The U.S. Census in 2000 put the city’s black population at 3.7 percent, and a census estimate in 2006 put that figure at 4.9 percent. For the Police Department’s makeup to match the city’s racial makeup, the department should have 9 or 10 black officers.

Prior to coming to Cedar Rapids, Graham had been deputy chief in Ocala, Fla., where he worked for a black police chief. But when asked if he had any network of contacts that might help in the recruitment of black officers, he said he wasn’t sure he did.

“The lack of minority officers is something we’re trying to address,” Graham offered.

But, in fact, he said it was difficult to recruit police officers, period, no matter what the race. At the same time, the current economic downturn might make public-sector law enforcement look more attractive to potential recruits, he said.

Graham said the department will be hiring a new recruit class in the months ahead, with training for that class set for summer. He said he would be willing to take questions about the racial makeup of the class at that time.

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  1. The NATION-WIDE percentage of minorities in the police force was only 22.7% as of 2000. The nation-wide percentage of minorities in the entire U.S. population is 32%. The fact of the matter is that minorities are not represented proportionally across the entire country in law enforcement. In that light, Cedar Rapids is pretty much on par with the rest of the country.

    Plus, if there are really only 3 black officers in the CRPD, I know that at least 2 of them are detectives or in supervisory roles, because I have met them, so it’s not like the only black officers in the CRPD are being “held back” or discriminated against.

    As far as linking race to what happened to Officer Davis, I humbly submit that any plain-clothes officer that grabbed panicked teenagers after committing a crime would have probably suffered the same fate as Officer Davis, regardless of race. A uniformed officer would likely have not been assaulted to the same degree, if at all. I’m not excusing the actions of those involved in Officer Davis’ incident, but these sorts of questions from the press and comments from the Chief only serve to make tensions higher than they already are in this City, and are almost as bad as the original act.

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