Black residents of Maryland are about 30 percent of the population, according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau numbers—by far the largest population of color in the state.
Yet, the ranks of Maryland State Troopers are just slightly more than 10 percent Black, a number that has been dwindling for more than a decade.
According to state statistics, only 197 of the state’s 1,453 troopers are Black compared to 312 Black troopers out of 1,612 or about 20 percent in 2000.
“There has been a decline in (Black) membership due to attrition however, the attrition has not been favorable…The members have not been retiring as much as they have been leaving for other reasons, i.e. resignations and looking for jobs in other locations,” said Rodney Morris, president of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers.
Morris, who retired from the department after 25 years of service, has been president of the Coalition since 2011. He said many Black troopers feel alienated within their own ranks for several reasons.
“There is a non-inclusive feeling (among Blacks) within the department,” he said. “The Maryland State Police is not a Democratic-led organization. You have a lot of Western Maryland and Eastern Shore… residents generally running the operation…and their ideology is not always consistent with the Governor’s office. They have a policy of diversity, but it’s not being practiced.”
Morris, who entered the department in 1986 says Blacks were aggressively recruited in the 1980’s, a sentiment echoed by Dr. Tyrone Powers, director of the Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute at Anne Arundel Community College.
Powers, a former state trooper and FBI agent, was recruited directly out of high school in the early 1980’s by two Black state troopers and after he left the department was recruited by Black FBI agents, who convinced him to join their agency. Powers and other critics said state law enforcement’s efforts towards diversity in the 21st century are woefully inadequate.
“Over the last 10 years, when the agency said they were going to increase recruitment of minorities and specifically African Americans, they’ve actually kind of gone in the other direction,” Powers said.
Powers says Maryland troopers don’t do enough recruiting on HBCU campuses. Also, he said recruiters could approach criminal justice instructors like him to identify students who could be candidates for law enforcement positions.
“So, they talk a great deal about diversity and recruitment, but if you look at the program, their approach to recruiting a diverse police community it’s not happening,” Powers added.
Elena Russo, spokeswoman for Maryland State Police, said diversity within the department is critical for effective law enforcement.
“People in the recruiting office go all over the state, all over the country to recruit,” Russo said. “In the last couple of years we’ve celebrated some significant accomplishments. For instance, we had our first African American female major appointed in 2012. A large part of our recruiting is focused on women, so we do recruit minorities. We try to recruit, retain and promote employees who reflect the state’s diversity.”
Russo also pointed to the work of the State Police Superintendent’s Council of Advisors on Diversity and Inclusion, consisting of several community, political and law enforcement leaders including Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young.
“They meet quarterly and provide diversity management initiatives, educational opportunities and are trying to come up with new diversity strategies,” Russo said.
Powers said efforts to increase diversity within all law enforcement agencies should transcend ideology, politics and prejudice.
“If you were superintendent of [the] state police, even if you didn’t have a bone in your body that wanted to deal with anything related to equality, you [should] do it strategically to reduce crime, to make sure you’re meeting the mission of the agency,” he said.
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