Study Seeks Solutions to Low Number of Minorities in Rochester Police Department

RIT team examines recruitment and retention procedures for minority hiring

Michelle Comeau

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives is working with the Rochester Police Department and the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services to improve the recruitment and retention of minority police officers.

The program is collecting data on African American, Latino and female representation in the Rochester department and analyzing the recruitment, examination and training process to uncover areas for improvement. The information will be used by the department and New York state to enhance minority recruitment efforts and improve candidate and trainee retention.

“A key component of community policing, particularly in the inner city, is the presence of police officers who represent the communities they serve,” says John Klofas, director of the Center for Public Safety Initiatives. “The city recognizes the need for constant review of its efforts to recruit and retain minority officers so that the overall representation of the department meets the needs of our neighborhoods.”

“According to Department of Criminal Justice Services data, Rochester currently ranks 16th out of the 22 largest cities in New York in terms of African-American representation in the police department,” adds Michelle Comeau, research associate with the center and a master’s student in the Department of Criminal Justice at RIT. “Our efforts have focused on uncovering some of the reasons for this disparity and recommending methods to improve the overall process.”

A key finding of the analysis is the significant disparities found between minority and majority candidates during the examination and training process. For example, an average of 34 percent of minority candidates fail the civil service exam compared with 10 percent for majority candidates. Based on this, Comeau and Klofas have developed a series of recommendations designed to improve components of the candidate development process, including exam preparation, and expand recruiting programs, public relations efforts and school programs in minority communities.

The study is funded in part by the Department of Criminal Justice Services and is a component of a broader partnership between RIT and the City of Rochester on the development of enhanced analysis techniques to measure the effectiveness of a number of public safety and crime reduction initiatives. The Center for Public Safety Initiatives was founded in 2006 and also includes support from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.


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