It's Difficult To Hire Black Officers Since Too Many Black People Have Been Arrested, Says NYPD Commissioner

06/09/2015 03:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

The number of potential police officers of color who have criminal records is too damn high -- at least that seems to be New York police commissioner Bill Bratton’s stance on why there aren’t more non-white NYPD officers.

“We have a significant population gap among African American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them,” the NYPD commissioner told The Guardian.

African-Americans compose 16 percent of the NYPD, whereas New York City is 23 percent black, according to a New York Times report.

Bratton’s comments come during a tense time. Communities nationwide are calling for more officers of color to be hired in hopes that the high number of police killings will subside.

The Guardian pointed out that budget limitations, the tense relationship between police and communities of color along with -- based on Bratton’s interview -- a long history of policing tactics that target African-Americans and Latinos are interfering with NYPD’s diversity goals.

Bratton has a point. Policing began when African-Americans were still widely seen as property to be managed and handled -- a sentiment that, arguably, still plays a role.

Police forces are more diverse today than they were 30 years ago, according to NPR. Only one out of every six officers were non-white in the 1980s compared to one in four today. Now, the issue is predominantly white forces policing majority-minority inner cities.

"We can't get more black officers,” St. Louis County officer Erich Von Almen told NPR in December. "We recruit predominantly at black schools, the military, and for the life of me I don't know why. It's not the best-paying job; they'd probably do better in the private sector. That's all I can think of. But I know it's not for the lack of trying."

Whether or not more officers of color actually leads to a stronger relationship with a community has been heavily debated.

Twenty-five black NYPD officers, former and current, told Reuters in December that they had been racially profiled by other cops while off-duty. Five had guns pulled on them and most of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times without reason.

Bratton admitted that his “stop, question and-frisk” policy played a role in the spike of African-American and Latinos being arrested, which resulted in the “population pool [of eligible non-white officers]” being “much smaller than it might ordinarily have been.”

Correction: This piece originally stated that 23 percent of the NYPD's officers are black, while 16 percent of New York City's population is black. In fact, 16 percent of the NYPD's officers are black, while 23 percent of New York City's population is black.

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