Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, whose commitment to diversity has been questioned by likely challengers to his 2013 re-election, has an answer for critics. From a press release this morning:
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today announced the start of the City’s newest police class, which is marked by the highest diversity among participants in over a decade. With a total of 41 applicants, 22 percent are female and over 10 percent are minority. By comparison, these numbers are double the average of female and minority participation over the last decade and a result of the City’s targeted minority recruitment, education and awareness campaign called Diversity365.
Yet despite those efforts ... this year's class includes precisely 1 black male -- the same number as last year. On the bright side, though, the current class includes an additional black female, which mathematically speaking means recruitment of black rookies has increased by 100 percent. One officer is Hispanic, another Indian, and a third Asian. A total of nine are women.
In fairness to the mayor, Ravenstahl's appointments have led to roughly proportional representation for black men and women. And in any case, a lack of diversity on the police force has been a festering problem almost since the day that a consent decree mandating an affirmative-action-type policy expired. An increasingly white police force has often been cited as a reason for friction with Pittsburgh's black communities, and Ravenstahl pledged to double down on recruitment efforts. Today's press release boasts of recruitment efforts that reached out as far away as Florida, while establishing a partnership with the Community College of Allegheny County, which provided free test-prep classes for aspiring cops. In all, Ravenstahl said, some 2,100 applicants -- twice the record high, established in 1999, sought to take the test.
Yet after all that effort, only 5 percent of the current police class will be African American ... in a city where more than a quarter of residents are black. As Ravenstahl himself acknowledges in the release, "There is still much work to be done." On that much, he and his critics can probably agree.