Addressing the issues of policing, crime, and punishment rightly raised in the Michael Brown shooting involves a complex set of factors.
It includes addressing chronic unemployment, the perception of judicial unfairness, the punitive nature of compounding municipal fines, and grievances about police operations and tactics.
With many partners, including the state government, the City of St.Louis is doing that - sometimes, by building on prior initiatives; other times, by throwing out old programs and starting something different.
Today's announcement is meant to address the mistrust that can be created when mostly white police departments patrol neighborhoods that are predominantly African American.
This is an important issue in a number of ways. The more people in a neighborhood have trust in the police officers who protect them, the better they will work together to root out criminals and reduce crime. The better police officers understand the dynamics of the neighborhoods they patrol, the better they will be at differentiating the good guys from the bad guys.
Minorities currently make up 34 percent of our police department at a time the City's minority population is 47 percent. Public Safety Director Rich Gray has been working diligently to recruit new applicants. Our last two police classes were half African American. We have a good place from which to continue to take advantage of some new partners.
It is important that we do so without cutting corners, without reducing the quality of the officers we hire.
So, the City is entering into an agreement with the Ethical Society of Police to recruit, prepare, and mentor prospective minority candidates for careers in public safety, particularly the police department.
We will pay currently serving African-American police officers to work while they are off duty to identify potentially qualified recruits, convince them that being a police officer is a good career, and prepare them to go through our rigorous hiring process.
Some of the recruits will make good police officers. Others may be better suited for other public safety jobs: firefighters, corrections officers, City marshals, and park rangers.
We will not put any limits one way or the other on the number of African American officers we recruit. There will be no quotas. We will hire as many qualified African American candidates as we can find.
The initiative will cost $50,000, which will come from the City's Prop S money for public safety.