Police force doesn’t reflect county’s racial makeup
The statistics don’t lie. Of the nearly 2,300 people that make up the Nassau County Police Department, only .78 percent are of Hispanic heritage, and .04 percent are African Americans. The figures contrast with a county population that is 17.5 percent Hispanic and 11.3 percent Black.
Further, this state of affairs is in the face of federal Department of Justice consent decrees seeking greater diversification that go back for decades.
“Clearly, [the consent decrees] are not working,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told Anton Media Group. “We need fresh ideas on how to do more minority recruiting. We’re working on it. We certainly have African American representation in the upper echelons of the department.”
She was referring to Chief of Department Steven Palmer, the highest-ranking uniformed officer, and several others in the leadership team.
“I always say, if your department looks like your community, it builds trust in a better way,” she continued.
The county executive recently announced the formation of the Nassau County Police Diversity Committee to improve police hiring. It will take a look, she said, “at one, the consent decrees, if they need to be rescinded or rethought. Two, looking at the civil service [policies and procedures] and how they need to be updated and amended. And three, what we can do to boost minority recruitment. We already have some things in place that you’ll see in upcoming classes being sworn in. So it’s slowly happening, but it needs to happen more quickly.”
She added, “But when it comes to the civil service, we want more, and this committee will help us in practical ways, what we can do as a county, as a department, to encourage more [minorities] not just to sign up, but to succeed. We have a mentor program that we started recently—it was the Guardians, the black police officers society that came up with this idea. So we have black officers who are mentoring new recruits. We all want them to succeed.”
At a recent press conference to introduce committee members, Curran stated, “This committee brings together key stakeholders with a mission of improving diversity in county police hiring through the three stages of the hiring: The first is recruitment. We want to focus on new methods and strategies to reach more potential police officers from all of our communities. We’ve been trying. We’ve been working on that. We’re open to new ideas. Testing is the second one. Working with minority candidates to help prepare for each facet of the police examination and the hiring practice.”
As far as training, the third stage, the county executive has high hopes about the new police training center slated to open later this year on the campus of Nassau Community College (NCC). In a press release, she said she wants to assist “minority candidates in the Police Academy to finish their rigorous training.”
“We’re focusing on each stage of the process for hiring. Because in many cases the county has had many candidates sign up, and they got lost in the process,” she said. “It’s a big task. We’re looking to get right to work. And not waste any time in this important work.”
Referencing the committee members arrayed behind her, she said, “I’m asking all of these people, all of these brains to come together to provide me recommendations ahead of the next civil service exam. I think this is a group of people who aren’t afraid to take on something challenging, something difficult. Something that says you can never change. Let’s see what we can do. We’re ready to go.”
Curran requested that the county’s civil service department schedule a police exam in 2022.
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder admitted to Anton Media Group that minority representation was small.
“We’re trying hard to recruit, to bring the minorities in. We see a growing Hispanic population. We also see that in the police department—that’s growing very quick. But not so much in the African-American [community]. Maybe it’s a trust factor. Maybe we need to do more work. That’s why we have to reform and that’s what we’re after.”
The commissioner came under fire for suggesting in an interview that “broken families” kept minorities from advancing.
In an interview with Anton Media Group, Curran said, “I don’t think that family makeup has much of a difference on diversity or lack of diversity in the police department.”
Curran was asked, “Is the police commissioner’s job safe? His critics have been asking for his resignation.”
“Yes, his job is safe,” she replied.