Race gap in Boston’s departments must change

It comes as a surprise that Boston’s police and fire departments are “the least racially diverse major city agencies,” according to a report by the city’s Office of Diversity that analyzed municipal payroll data.

The analysis found that the police department is 66 percent white and the fire department is 72 percent white. The city’s workforce overall, which consists of 17,000 employees, is 58 percent white.

This is ironic, not only because Boston is a major destination city for international tourists, but also is home to a diverse population of permanent residents as well. Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics represent 53 percent of the city’s population, according to The Boston Globe. Diversity is important if we want to live in a world where we accept people from different backgrounds.

By Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s creation of the Office of Diversity to hire a more diverse staff could also benefit the city. If police departments start to better reflect the diverse communities they serve, perhaps it will improve the trust between residents and officers, and the departments’ credibility.

Police departments should also hire officers who speak languages other than English. Bilingual officers would not only be able to communicate with different groups of people, but also relate to them from a perspective of a cultural understanding. This could possibly help decrease the recent clashes between police officers and residents, like an incident in Alabama with Sureshbhai Patel.

Patel, an Indian national who speaks very little English, was thrown to the ground by a police officer while visiting his son in Alabama in February, according to ABC News.  He was reported as a suspicious person when he was seen walking around his son’s neighborhood. Dashcam video recorded the assault, which resulted in a neck injury that left Patel partially paralyzed. Patel’s lawyer said Patel was “accosted for his brown skin,” according to The Associated Press.

The majority of the population in my hometown Houston is Hispanic, but according to the New York Times, nearly three-quarters of the city’s police officers are white. Houston’s police department should employ more competent Hispanic officers to connect with the community.

A multicultural workforce, with employees from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, will allow them to learn from one another in ways that will make an impact at work. Each member of the department can bring his or her unique blend of characteristics and cultural experiences to the table that will give them the ability to relate to people on a personal level, and thus allowing them to rethink and reframe issues. This will also help to create a culture that accepts and influences difference.