The NYPD recruitment of Black Officers: It is very hard to find what you are not looking for!

“NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says it’s hard to hire black cops because too many have criminal histories”—NY Daily News

Mr. Bratton and I have the opposite problem. Around the house, I usually can’t find what I am looking for; and in his case he can’t find what he is not looking for. As a former NYC principal I can assure you that there are plenty of Black and Latino young people who are capable and eligible for any type of civil service career. It is just a matter of identification, encouragement, cultivation and preparation.

The cynical Irony of this entire scenario, is that the NYPD along with our Borough District Attorney’s offices are systemically structured to nail young Black and Latino men and women who can’t afford bail even if they are innocent, and then they often “plea out” to a felony charge, with less, little or no jail time; however that decision makes them ineligible, if not unattractive for any type of meaningful employment (civil or otherwise). In a cruel sense, it is policing policies that are creating the very problems that they claim are preventing them from diversifying their ranks. Now, Work with that awhile!


Mr. Bratton only need to travel a few miles north to West Point, or take a day trip to Annapolis; to get some ideas.

The U.S. Military Service Academies have made a serious commitment to diversify their ranks while maintaining their standards for admission, and with no use of a quota system. In particular the Navy has opened its bases, the academy itself, aircraft carriers and even nuclear submarines to minority student visits (I know because I took students from Phelps on these trips). The office of naval research opened its underwater robotics lab to a group of minority students from Phelps, and also was a major sponsor of the Phelps Robotics team. The Navy also conducts a summer program at the Academy for high school students (I had students take advantage of this also) Most important the Navy has assigned specific personnel to do strategic outreach information and recruitment sessions (and it is real solid outreach, not for show public relations stuff!) Everyone I have spoken to including retired Black naval officers agree that these outreach efforts have been successful!

The big difference here is organizational culture, which feeds intent (or lack of). Institutions like the Navy see diversity as part of their strategic mission to defend the nation; and of course, they see Black and Latino Americans as part of that nation! And unless our police departments across this nation adopt that cultural posture; to see people of color as citizens worthy to be served and protected. And to not see Black and Latino communities as areas to be conquered and controlled, they will always fail in the area of recruitment. For what military force, para or full, would want to recruit the enemy?