We received an email from a Montclair resident who was very concerned about his city ranking the highest among all the cities in the Los Angeles area as far as the racial gap between the police department and the community. He forwarded us the email he sent to the members of the council, and one councilmember's response to that email. Here they are, redacted to as to protect his identity:
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 5:06 PM
To: Paul Eaton; Bill Ruh; John Dutrey; Leonard Paulitz; Carolyn Raft
Subject: Montclair has one of highest "racial gaps" among all of nation's police forces
Esteemed Members of the City Council:
I am writing to bring this to your attention in case nobody else has yet. Last week, the New York Times published an interactive map based on a study out of George Washington University that takes the demographic composition of local police forces, and compares it to the demography of the city in question. This study was obviously prompted by the popular protest--even to the point of civil unrest--of the police murder of the unarmed black youth Michael Brown by an officer from the predominantly-white police force of Ferguson, MO.
At any rate, Montclair ranks the highest in that racial disparity of any Los Angeles-area municipality.
I for one am not convinced that racial composition is a panacea for all policing-related problems, but it is indeed a factor in the community's mistrust of police. And with police violence reaching epidemic levels, and considering the impact acts of police violence have on the community, there is definitely a reason to take note and address the concern.
So my question to you is what you, as the leadership of our city, are planning on doing about our Montclair police department, to avoid a Ferguson-like situation here, before the powderkeg is lit?
I realize you will be unable to "reply all" due to Brown Act restrictions, but I would welcome any individual response, and I would also be glad to hear any and all comments coming from the dais at the next Montclair City Council meeting.
Here is councilmember John Dutrey's response to the email:
Thank you for your email.
The City of Montclair is committed to a professional police department that serves all residents of diverse backgrounds, no matter their race, sex, religions, etc. The City's goal is to hire the best candidates that have good moral character in order to protect our citizens. It is vital that every employee respects and engages in the diversity of residents in Montclair, which includes a large Hispanic population.
The police department is funded with 53 sworn peace officer positions. It currently has four individuals in background for vacant police officer positions, plus two individuals entering the Police Academy in October 2014. Of these individuals, 5 prospective candidates have Hispanic surnames.
Since 2010, the Police Department has hired 17 police officers, which 9 (53%) are of Hispanic origin; 6 of the last 7 candidates offered police officer jobs are of Hispanic origin (86%). The most recent Lateral Police Officer recruitment resulted in 18 candidates successfully completing the testing process. Five (5) candidates are white (28%), two are Asian (11%), one African American (6%), and 10 are Hispanic (56%). Eleven of the 18 candidates competing for the position of Police Officer Trainee are of Hispanic origin (61%). Recently 17 candidates engaged in the testing process for the Police Cadet position, which 13 were of Hispanic origin (76%).
The Police Department is currently engaging in community outreach programs, which includes encouraging youths and young adults in Montclair and surrounding neighborhoods to consider a career in law enforcement. The City is committed to provide opportunities not in just the Police Department, but in all departments, to both local residents and to all races, with the goal of hiring the best candidate.
The NYT article provided some useful information, but did include some inaccuracies, such as the Montclair Police Department has 60 sworn positions. It also failed to discuss the current hiring trends of minorities as police officers. As discussed above, the Montclair Police Department is experiencing an increase in minorities applying for police officer positions, which is increasing the number of minority police officers. The trend is expected to continue in the future years.
If you wish have any further questions, feel free to contact me.
City Council Member
City of Montclair
5111 Benito St.
Montclair, CA 91763
We were unable to attend, but we did receive an invitation to join the Montclair city council meeting held this past Monday, September 15, where we understand that the community member in question did indeed address the council on this topic. He probably used a more polite tone than we would have, and perhaps that is why he is now getting invited to meet with the chief of police. Maybe the powers that be think they can neutralize criticism by drawing the critic close to them? As more develops, we will keep our readers informed.