(DALLAS, Texas) -- Dallas' Thin Blue Line is looking a little thinner these days in terms of racial diversity.
According to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Police Department has struggled in the last two years to continue the progress it made in the previous seven in the recruitment and hiring of nonwhite officers. And the department seems to have an especially difficult time hiring and retaining Hispanics at precisely the time when the city it patrols is becoming more Hispanic.
Between 1992 and 1998, 31 percent of new police were black and 28 percent were Hispanic. In 1999, those figures dropped to 19 percent for each. This year, the percentage of African-Americans bounced up to 26 percent but the Hispanic number dipped even further to 17 percent.
The drop in minority hires coincides with the aftermath of a 1998 decision by a federal court that struck down part of Dallas' affirmative-action plan. The decision prompted city officials to stop using race as a primary factor in hiring. The new figures feed the perception that the department has taken advantage of the court ruling to ease up on recruiting and hiring minorities.
Department officials deny that and assert that, to the contrary, they've never been more aggressive in pursuing, hiring and retaining minorities. They blame falling numbers on various factors, including stiff competition by other local, state and federal agencies that are aggressively pursuing qualified minority academy graduates.
It is also likely that the relatively low starting pay for Dallas police is hurting recruitment. By year's end, a brand-new recruit will make $31,975, while some area suburban departments and most state and federal agencies pay significantly more.
It may be true that top minority candidates go elsewhere. And it may be true that the Dallas Police Department is indeed more committed than ever to diversifying its ranks. But good intentions count for very little and the only thing that matters is results. The numbers speak for themselves, and what they say loud and clear is that the Dallas Police Department has to become even more committed, and perhaps more creative, in its efforts to produce a police force that bears even the slightest resemblance to the population that it protects and serves.
(iSyndicate; The Dallas Morning News; Nov. 21, 2000) Terms and Conditions: CopyrightO 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.