A job fair organized to help area police departments recruit more minorities into their ranks drew only about a dozen potential candidates Thursday.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen departments staffed recruiting booths during the four-hour event at the Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose Center in Kansas City.
Organizers said the fact that police departments outnumbered prospective officers will not deter them.
“I am excited about the departments that actually showed (up),” said Pat Clarke, an anti-crime activist and event organizer. “We have done something that has never been done before. We are going to do this again, and from what I understand, everybody’s all in.”
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The lack of minority officers was chief among complaints levied in Ferguson, Mo., after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in August. Two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African-American; nearly all of the department’s officers are white.
Weeks later, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster convened community meetings in St. Louis and Kansas City to explore ways to improve racial diversity in Missouri’s urban law enforcement agencies. A report about possible solutions is expected soon.
Officials said they do not know what percentage of Missouri’s 14,000 law enforcement officers are nonwhite because the state does not track that statistic.
Police officials at the Thursday event said it is important that their departments embrace racial diversity.
“The turnout maybe wasn’t what we had hoped, but at least it gets you to thinking what can we do in the future,” said Raymore Police Chief Jan Zimmerman, whose department has four vacancies. “You have to keep on having these conversations to figure out the best way to engage a population that maybe law enforcement is not their first (career) choice.”
Cameron Martin, 23, who grew up near 71st Street and Askew Avenue, attended and said he hopes to be hired by Kansas City.
“I think I can make a difference in my community,” Martin said.