Diversity Dilemma: An In-Depth Look at the Millcreek Township Police Force
For years, Erie News Now has taken an in-depth look at the make-up of the Erie police department, and reported on efforts to diversify our area's largest police force.
But we uncovered, there's an extreme lack of diversity in the Millcreek Township Police Department as well.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics, of Millcreek Township’s 53,441 residents, 92% of the population is white, with about 8 percent minority residents.
The 65-member Millcreek Township P.D. is made up of 61 white males, just four females, and no minorities. So, it's an all-white and predominately male police force, “Certainly I think it would be a benefit if we were more diverse,” said Millcreek Township Supervisor James Bock, Liaison to the police department.
But Bock says there are challenges in making that a reality.
For one, the department doesn't have a lot of turnover, they only plan to hire one officer in 2019, “I see a benefit to having a diverse force, I really do but it's tough, there's not a lot of turnover here, guys, officers stay 20 to 30 years, and it's a big department for this area, but in terms of overall departments it's relatively small,” said Bock.
The township no longer does any recruiting for minorities.
That’s because for the past five years, the township has selected hires from a pool of applicants from the Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy's consortium test, “We don't currently have a recruiter on staff or a recruitment division here at Millcreek, we do rely on consortium rankings for our pool of applicants,” said Bock.
Bock says they hire from the list of top applicants, “Typically in the last five years that we've been part of the consortium, we're not seeing very many minority potential hires within that ranking.”
Meanwhile, the city of Erie is taking quite the opposite approach, “Law enforcement and the fire department should be reflective of the community they serve in,” said Michael Outlaw, Community Liaison for the City of Erie.
Outlaw attended the police physical agility test last August, it was the first year the city of Erie took part in Mercyhurst’s consortium test.
And the city is still actively recruiting to get more minorities on the force.
In fact, Erie currently has 9 females and 11 minorities, it’s the most diversity they've seen in quite some time.
And continuing the trend is a goal the city’s administration hopes to attain by engaging with local churches, and the Armed Forces, to get veterans to apply, “So those are efforts that we are making currently, and we believe if we stay true to the process we're going to see those results,” said Outlaw.
But results clearly are not happening in Millcreek, as this lack of diversity is not a new issue. Erie News Now obtained a 300 plus page recruitment study from 2011, the township hired a firm to do it, after a former female officer filed a complaint about how she was treated in the department.
The study found while the environment needed to change at the department, as far as recruiting, for the most part, they were on par, but there was ‘room for improvement,’ “We did the best we could as far as sending officers to the career days at the local universities, going to the local civic organizations and groups and speaking,” said Tom Carlotti, who was the Millcreek Police Chief in 2011 when that study is completed.
But 8 years later, with not a single minority on the force, it appears not much has changed.
But as far as the makeup of the department in terms of females, Carlotti says 6% isn't actually all that bad, “Even though four white females is a small number, it's better than we've had in the past… it's not an ideal situation, but it's better than it was.”
The Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy does not recruit for the test, Police Academy Director Bill Hale says recruiting for the academy and the consortium test, is up to individual departments.
Hale says the test is open for whomever wants to take it, in fact, race and gender are not even on the applications.
Hale says black, white, Asian, female, male, everybody has got a fair shot, “It's an excellent job, if you're interested in becoming a police officer and serving your community, and changing the perceptions in your community, then I think what you have to do is apply to the academy and make sure you're eligible to take that consortium test,” said Hale.
So if Millcreek is not recruiting minorities, and the academy isn't either, what's the answer?
Carlotti suggests it's deeper than recruiting, rather it's a societal issue. He says the perception of being a police officer needs to change, to convince minorities it's a good gig, “I look at what the City of Erie Police Department has done in the way of recruitment, I think they have bent over backwards and they're still having a problem so I don't know what the answer is,” said Carlotti. “I think it starts early on, with the mindset that's developed through experiences possibly, that has led people to take a different path rather than police work. But I'm hoping that if the departments can get out there and interact with people, I know community policing is a big thing everywhere now-a-days, and it's a good thing, interacting with the public is only going to make the job a little more attractive to people who wouldn't normally think to go that way,” Carlotti continued.
Erie News Now did some digging, and found a lack of diversity in smaller departments like Millcreek, is not an issue exclusive to the township.
In nearby Ashtabula, Ohio, the County Sheriff's department has 36 officers, a majority, 34 are white males, there is one female and one black officer.
In Jamestown, New York, closest in size to Millcreek, they have 62 officers. It's the most diverse of the departments we checked, with five females, 2 black officers and 2 Hispanics, but still, 53 white male officers.
Down south, in Cranberry Pa, North of Pittsburgh it's an all-white force, with just 2 females of 31-member department.
And in Monroeville, Pa, they've got 45 officers. A majority of them are white males, with just 2 black officers on the force and one female.
This is just a sampling of smaller, similar size departments as Millcreek, nearby, to check what their forces are like.