WICHITA, Kansas — Members of the Wichita community are fighting for more minority officers to better mirror the racial makeup of the city.
KSN requested the open records data, comparing the racial composition of Wichita, the city’s minority population, to that of the minority population serving on the Wichita Police force.
U.S. Census estimates the past two years reveal that the city of Wichita is made up of a minority population as large as 35 percent. City officials tell KSN that the minority population of Wichita, to date, is at least one-third.
However, the minority population of the Wichita Police Department is considerably lower.
In July 2014, the Wichita Police Department’s quarterly report revealed that, of the 790 Wichita Police employees, only 165, or 20.9 percent are minorities.
Only 15 of the 790 WPD employees are supervisors and also minorities, which makes up 1.9 percent.
Representatives of the Wichita Police Department acknowledge the issue and tell KSN that WPD is working to improve the circumstances.
“You’re right. We have to look like the community we police,” said Interim Chief Nelson Mosley.
Protesters voiced their concern regarding the matter Thursday evening, among other issues, in downtown Wichita.
“You can’t properly police a community if you’re not part of it,” said Abril Marshall, a protester who participated in Thursday’s justice march. “You can’t relate to those people that you’re protecting at all.”
“An issue that a black family might face is not the same issue that a Latin family’s going to face, or an American family’s going to face,” added protester, Jose Salaicez.
During Wednesday’s second community meeting with WPD, Kansas Representative Gail Finney, of the 84th district, brought up the issue of diversity on the Wichita Police force publicly.
“There’s over 11 percent of African Americans here and there is 12 – 13 percent Hispanics. I would like for you to have that reflected in your police force. Well, our police force,” said Rep. Finney.
KSN sat down with Captain Brent Allred, who works at the training bureau in Wichita Police’s Support Services Division.
“Without a diverse workforce, the communication, the partnerships, the trust, won’t be like what we, and the community that we live in, need it to be,” said Capt. Allred.
Allred says that is why the department is working to improve their recruiting and hiring practices.
“Getting the word out that we need police officers out there and a diverse police department is very important,” he said.
The Wichita Police Department is reportedly trying to get the message out, the best ways they know how, to minorities that the department is hiring. In 2015, those efforts will be increased.
WPD has already registered to recruit at a career fair in March at Langston University in Oklahoma. The college has a large minority population. The department will also attend Washburn University‘s career fair in Topeka.
These career fairs are in addition to the Atwater Career Fair in Wichita, along with the statewide diversity career fair held earlier this year at Century II.
The department is also currently considering taking out advertisements in local bilingual publications with the hope of reaching a broader minority audience.
Capt. Allred told KSN that stastically in recent years, WPD employment applications have declined across the general population, not only in the minority population.
“About four years ago, we had 400 and some applicants fill out those first contacts. This year, so far, we’ve had around 190,” he said.
The next Wichita Police recruitment class begins on Jan. 5. The following class is slated to begin again in July.
WPD tries to get anywhere from 25 – 30 people in each class.