Police across the country realize diversity is an issue, work to make changes

By | October 17, 2020

Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Andrew Martinez, 9.25

Trooper Andrew Martinez is 47 but graduated from the Nebraska State Patrol’s training camp in June. Based in Lexington, Martinez is one of just 20 minority officers on the State Patrol force.

DES MOINES, Iowa — More than 80% of the law enforcement agencies in the nation’s Heartland region don’t mirror the racial makeup of the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.

However, those agencies say, police diversity is more complicated than just making census-based hires.

Reporters from Lee Enterprises-owned newspapers in Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas took a deep dive into the numbers after civil unrest surrounding instances of police brutality put the issue in the spotlight.

The demographic makeup of more than 100 law enforcement agencies was compared with census data for those communities.

Diversity in law enforcement

Among the findings: More than a dozen agencies were at least 20 percentage points less diverse than the communities they serve.

* The 17-member force on the Lacy-Lakeview, Texas, police department is all white, even though the city’s population is more than 52% minority, including 26% Latino and 22% Black, according to census figures.

* The 19-member force on the Storm Lake, Iowa, police department has two Latino members, making the force 10.5% Latino. But the Storm Lake community is 37.8% Latino, according to census data.

* The 156-member Bryan, Texas, police force is 80% white even though the community is just 40% white.

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