Last week, city commissioner/mayoral candidate Jim Francesconi attacked Portland's cop shop for its lack of progress in increasing diversity and demanded a report within 60 days on plans to change that.

In reality, not only is there already an ambitious plan in place--but Francesconi has known about it for months.

Late last year, Chief Derrick Foxworth quietly launched a top-to-bottom effort to bring some more color into the city's overwhelmingly white Police Bureau--and, according to the woman who'd know, it's working.

City human-resources director Yvonne Deckard says a test given to would-be officers last weekend drew 135 applicants, a third of whom were minorities. "We haven't done that well in years," says Deckard.

A succession of chiefs has publicly vowed to make diversity a priority. But the number of African-American cops has stayed at about 40 for the past two decades, even as the number of white cops has nearly doubled to more than 900.

Although the City Council required all bureaus to implement a diversity program three years ago, Deckard says former Chief Mark Kroeker never did. Foxworth, who took over last August, asked Deckard for help.

"Our staff has spent months evaluating, researching and putting together a strategy that we think is a very good one," Deckard says

Kroeker's idea was to recruit black, Latino and Asian cops from other cities. It didn't work. Foxworth, by contrast, is targeting young minority Portlanders. He and Deckard plan to advertise on Hispanic radio stations and dispatch a diverse recruitment team to job fairs, high schools, community colleges and universities.

In addition, Foxworth wants the bureau to do a better job schmoozing with the public. "If people are having a negative experience with you, they don't want to come work for you," says Deckard. "So we have to market ourselves. We want our communities to view their police precinct as a part of their neighborhood--a place where they are welcome."

Finally, the city's human-resources staff is also analyzing the cop-shop hiring process to tweak areas, such as the background investigation, that may unintentionally discriminate against minority candidates.

Diversity crusades can make white cops feel under siege, but Foxworth's efforts don't appear to have created an internal backlash. Leo Painton, secretary-treasurer of the Portland Police Association, says he cannot speak for the union, but he personally has not heard any grumbling about efforts to promote diversity.

That's probably because no one thinks Foxworth will sacrifice quality for diversity. He recently proposed firing an African-American officer, Edgar Mitchell, for an off-duty car accident while driving drunk. And, in recently promoting a white sergeant to lieutenant, the chief passed over Harry Jackson--an African-American sergeant so popular Adidas named a plaza after him in Northeast Portland.

Until now, the public has not been informed of Foxworth's plans, but Francesconi has. In March, says Deckard, "I provided the chief and the mayor and Commissioner Francesconi a binder--I'd say about six inches thick."

"I did talk to Yvonne and the chief" about the plans, Francesconi says, but he wanted to see more details and put the City Council "on record" as supporting diversity.

Francesconi's only specific suggestion was that Foxworth adopt a minority-oriented apprenticeship program similar to that in place at the Fire Bureau. But, says Deckard, the bureau already has a very similar program with a different name--it's called Police Corps.

Minority employment at top city bureaus (2003-2004)




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Source: City of Portland