Like many big cities in the US, Baltimore has a police force that doesn’t come close to representing the racial composition of the general population, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI).
The city’s officers are 50% white despite the population being only 28% white, according to CPI data. Meanwhile, officers are 47% black even though blacks make up nearly 64% of Baltimore citizens. This disparity comes despite efforts to diversify the department’s ranks, according to the CPI.
The CPI noted the disparity between the racial makeup of major cities and their police forces on Thursday, a day before it was announced that six Baltimore cops were charged in the death of Freddie Grey, a black male living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood in Baltimore.
Boston and Milwaukee also have similar disparities, but Detroit has the least representative police force.
Race riots in the 1960s caused many whites toflee urban centreslike these for the suburbs. Many cities includingBaltimore,DetroitandNewarkare still struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the mass migration.
Property values in many cities plunged as blacks and other minorities moved in to take their place. City police forces, however, remained largely white.
“Police have come to symbolise white power, white racism and white repression,” the 1968 Kerner Commission report on policing tactics that led to the race riots found. “[The] abrasive relationship between police and the minority communities has been a major-and explosive-source of grievance, tension and disorder.”
This acrimonious relationship only became worse as the war on drugs ramped up during the 1980s, resulting in the mass incarceration of minorities.
“It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact — the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks,” said the hip-hop artist Tupac in the hit song “Changes.”
Tupac had a point, as black inmates made up 49.4% of those behind bars in 1996, the year before “Changes” was recorded.
These comments also come from the Kerner Report:
“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.
Reaction to last summer’s disorders has quickened the movement and deepened the division. Discrimination and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they now threaten the future of every American.
This deepening racial division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible. Our principal task is to define that choice and to press for a national resolution.
To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”
The Kerner Report also recommended that cities actively recruit minorities to have a police force their citizens can relate to.
The words ring as true today as they did nearly 50 years ago.
NOW WATCH: Watch this angry mum in Baltimore confront her son and pull him out of the police protests
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.