Amid a national outcry over the lack of diversity in institutions across the U.S., new federal data show that rank-and-file officers in hundreds of police departments are considerably more white than the communities they serve. Of 467 local police departments with at least 100 officers that reported data for 2007 and 2016, more than two-thirds became whiter relative to their communities between those years, found a New York Times analysis. At least 135 became less white relative to the population they serve, while at least 332 became more white relative to the population they serve. Some departments — including many of the largest, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Dallas — narrowed the gap between the share of white police officers and white residents. Most police forces did not keep pace with the changing demographics of their cities.
The widening racial gap means that at a time when the population is growing more diverse, residents more often meet officers who don’t look like them. There was a concerted effort among police forces to hire more officers of color from 2007 to 2016. Few cities reached the point where the demographics of their departments better reflected their communities. Nationwide, the share of white officers exceeds the share of the white population, and the gap has grown larger. Blacks and Hispanics remain underrepresented. Experts attributed some of that gap to outrage over the deaths of Black men at the hands of police. “It has been really daunting in the post-Ferguson era to maintain and increase the diversity of departments,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, referring to the half-dozen years since Michael Brown, 18, was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo. BJS estimated that the proportion of Black officers at local police departments fell by half a percentage point, to 11.4 percent, between 2013 and 2016.