Education

Mayor Pete, education is the only pathway to more black police officers.

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Courtesy of Vox

  • 2020 Presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg struggles to recruit officers of color for South Bend Police Department 
  • South Bend Public schools black and brown students’ underperformance contributes to the lack of officers of color 

Published 06/29/19 | Reading Time: 3 mins 21 secs

Editorial | By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder and editor-in-chief

When examining the City of South Bend Police Department’s recruitment website page, the first image one encounters is of a steel photograph of a violent, combative scene for an officers’ recruitment video.

The short 1 minute, and 13-second, video is of a white female officer lead character, which is commendable and may even attract more women to the profession.

But white women aren’t the ones endanger of experiencing police use of force; that would be unarmed black people.

In an interview with CNN News Anchor Don Lemon, 2020 Presidential Candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, “I couldn’t get us to where the number of black officers on our department mirrors our community.” His statements coming after South Bend’s black community confronted Mayor Pete on another shooting of a black man in their community. 

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South Bend, Indiana is 26.4% black, and black police officers compose of only 5% of the South Bend Police Department.

“It’s really important that happens if we want to have the kind of trust between communities of color and the department that we need. It’s not for lack of effort. I can tell you that we’ve taken a number of steps to try and recruit more people to apply in the first place,” the presidential candidate said while in his interview.

Perhaps the Mayor should focus more on getting his police chief to hire a diversity and inclusion professional to educate the police department on implicit biased policing and practices. 

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The city’s police department has a list of requirements for those interested in applying on their website.

The Black Wall Street Times highlighted two possible barriers for black recruits:

  • United States Citizen
  • Must be 21-35 years of age at time of application (or up to 40 years of age if retired military with 20 years of service and honorable discharge, in accordance with HB1359)
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Must be able to pass a competitive written exam
  • Have no felony criminal convictions 
  • Have no conviction of domestic violence or a domestic violence-related offense (either misdemeanor or felony)
  • Must be of good moral character
  • Must pass mandatory drug screening
  • Have no previous use of hallucinogenic drugs (LSD, Mushrooms, Mescaline, Ecstasy, etc.)
  • Possess a valid driver’s license from current state of residence
  • Military discharge (if applicable) cannot be characterized as “other than honorable”, “bad conduct”, or “dishonorable”
  • Must be able to pass a physical agility assessment test
  • Must submit to in-depth background investigation, polygraph, psychological testing, and medical examination

There is a pathway to every profession, and education is at the intersection of every one of them. After all, one can’t get past the job application if that person can’t read or write at some fundamental level.

Before being considered for a position on the South Bend police force, one needs a high school diploma or GED and must be able to pass a competitive written exam.

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Considering that nine majority black and brown South Bend public schools received F grades, for the past several years, from the Indiana Department of Education last year, coupled with abysmally high suspension rates of black students, one can see why the South Bend Police Department struggles to recruit people of color.

The South Bend Tribune reported that “Data show black students, who comprise about a third of the district’s enrollment, receive about 65 percent of out-of-school suspensions.”

It’s a no brainer that out-of-school suspensions contribute to low test scores because the students aren’t in school learning the material needed to past their state exams.

South Bend school district has also experienced a teacher shortage and at one point needed as many as 100 teachers to start their school year.

It seemingly appears that the South Bend schools that have the worst academic performance and highest suspension rates are in majority black and brown communities.

For example, the Brown Intermediate Center School has a student population that’s 47% Black and 20% Latinx. Their 5th-grader scored 55% lower than the state average. The highest performing public schools were in the more affluent white neighborhoods.

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The South Bend Tribune, also, reported back in 2018, that, “Two South Bend Community School Corp. primary schools, a high school and the Rise Up Academy are out of compliance with the 1981 consent decree that requires desegregation of black students, but the number of schools in noncompliance is down from prior years.”

To suggest that majority-black and brown schools require more white students only underscores the actual problem here. 

The dilemma is that the majority of Black and Brown schools in South Bend continue to suffer from the adverse effects of white supremacy’s legacy in the city.

The results were segregated and underfunded schools due to redlining, occurring after Jim Crow, which contributed to insufficient local tax dollars for black and brown schools. That, coupled with other issues like the over-policing of black neighborhoods in South Bend that led to high incarceration rates and more single-parent homes — paralleling the high suspension rates in their public schools only meant the removal of black students from learning and achieving. 

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Hence, the single parent is the bearer of the burden in ensuring homework is done, grades are up, and that their child is behaving in school — which can be difficult with a single parent that has multiple kids plus jobs to juggling. 

Therefore, if Mayor Pete wants more South Bend police officers of color in the future, he’s going to have to start with improving the academic and social outcomes for Black and Brown students in his city, so that they can graduate having the skill sets required to become a South Bend law enforcement officer.


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Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World. 

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