Baltimore County police have started a new radio ad campaign -- part of a bid to recruit minorities, especially black women, and bring the department's minority makeup into line with the county population.
The ads began airing last month on three radio stations, including one with a young black audience. They feature male and female officers describing why they joined the 1,600-member department.
"What we are after is the young minority members of the community," said Col. M. Kim Ward, who heads the department's Human Resources Bureau. "We are looking at the demographics of the county and trying not just to match it, but to surpass it. Black females remain our most critical target, along with Latino women."
Minorities make up nearly 20 percent of the county's population, and the Police Department is 11 percent minority, police and planning department figures show. The number of minorities in the department has grown over the years, but not as fast as the county's minority population.
Detective Lawrence Thomas, president of the Blue Guardians, a minority police officers association, said the department needs to take a hard look at hiring, along with recruitment. He noted that in a recent police academy class, 37 black females passed a written test but only one was hired.
"I think the problem might lie in who has the authority to select these individuals," he said. "And if you look at the number of whites on the department, you wouldn't think the same things are stopping them from being hired."
Thomas calls the radio campaign a good idea but says the department must work harder to become more visible to the black community.
The department has not been immune to racial tension.
Last year, two black officers filed federal lawsuits alleging a pattern of discrimination that they said stemed from a 1992 incident in which they said they were taunted with a noose. Both lawsuits allege a pattern of discrimination before the incident.
The ad campaign was prompted by the department's recognition that it needs more minorities among recruits. The current class of 61 recruits includes 44 white men, seven white women, six black men, three black women and one Hispanic male, department figures show. The numbers for the previous class are similar: Of 56 recruits, 49 were white.
Ward, who has been with the department for 15 years and is its highest-ranking woman, does not have an explanation for the racial disparities.
But Thomas noted tough competition from local companies, PTC which may pay more than an officer's $25,880 starting salary and offer better working conditions and benefits.
About half of all candidates -- black or white -- who pass a written test fail to pass the eight other phases of screening involved in becoming an officer. Those include a physical test and an extensive background investigation that ranges from debt management to a criminal history.
The radio ads -- on WERQ-FM (92.3), an urban contemporary station, WWIN-AM (1400) and WOLB-AM (1010) -- also are designed to present a new and more polished image of police work.
To bolster the ads in which officers talk of their job satisfaction, the department has designed fliers that describe a career in law enforcement as a commitment to public service. The fliers will be passed out during stations' promotional events.
"We are really emphasizing the community service aspects of police work," said department spokesman Bill Toohey. "There is more to this job than just standing around in the rain directing traffic or chasing bad guys."
Pub Date: 7/02/97