Missouri Law Enforcement to Pursue Greater Diversity

In response to the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri that stemmed from a black youth being shot and killed by Ferguson police, the attorney general in Missouri has begun pushing for officials to take steps to recruit more minorities into law enforcement departments.

A roundtable discussion was held by Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, and was also attended by several state officials including state representatives, police chiefs from various jurisdictions, and a number of community leaders. According to Koster, the roundtable was the first logical step in a concerted response to the shooting of a black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer that ignited days of protests by mostly black Ferguson residents.

Koster said that the goal of the roundtable was to find ways to increase the level of mutual respect and communication “between law enforcement and the communities they protect.” One of the ideas that was generated by the members of the roundtable was to implement a program with a model similar to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in that it would call for law enforcement officers and other representatives to partner with high schools throughout Missouri to recruit kids early. The possibility of tying such a program to scholarships for students to be able to enroll in criminal studies curricula at community colleges in Missouri was also suggested.

It has been extremely difficult for police departments around Missouri in general and in St. Louis in particular to increase diversity among their ranks because more than 60 percent of all law enforcement applicants are white. But state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal said that the issue is more than just about race, it is about the law enforcement institution in Missouri and taking the necessary steps to ensure that diversity is not only a priority, but that it is actively pursued as such.

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