Under the leadership of chief Kathleen O'Toole, the Seattle Police Department is steadily increasing the diversity of its approximately 1,200-member force by hiring more minority officers. In 2016, the proportion of nonwhite officers joining the SPD has jumped to 35 percent, up ten points over two years, according to a recent department report.
O'Toole has made it a priority to create a police force that reflects Seattle. "We need to have police services that [represent] the communities that they serve," she said when she took the job.
Mayor Ed Murray has pledged to hire 200 more officers by 2019. Here's a chart showing the progress on hiring over three years. (Click to enlarge.)
The SPD is already doing a better job of mirroring the racial demographics in Seattle than departments in other large cities, according to a survey and study by the Community Police Commission, though the force is still nine percentage points whiter than the city's population.
The police force should strive for diversity because it "conveys a sense of equity to the public" and increases the likelihood that officers will understand the perspectives of minorities, the commissioners said, urging a more intensive push for minority recruitment.
The department was 74 percent white in 2015. Many of its officers live outside Seattle. "There aren’t enough people 'like us' on SPD," the CPC report quoted one person as saying. "We want to see officers in our community who share our physical traits and cultural values."
Beyond ethnicity, the SPD has long been criticized for not changing its "preference points" system to incentivize the hiring of more multilingual applicants or Peace Corps members, the way it does for military veterans.