The City of Minden affirmed its pledge to work toward hiring more African American police officers following concerns voiced during Monday's monthly city council meeting.
During the audience comments portion of the meeting, the Rev. Kenneth Wallace told the council he was concerned because out of 36 Minden police officers only eight are African Americans.
"African Americans make up 51.5 percent of the population of Minden," said Wallace, who is president of the Minden branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "Why isn't the police force more representative of the community it represents?"
Wallace said he was concerned that racism and bias were at the root of the racial makeup of the police force. He said that while less than 25 percent of the squad is black, more than 68 percent of those arrested are African American.
"There were 168 arrests in Minden in the months of October and November of 2012," he said. "Of those, 115 were African American."
Wallace cited other communities along the I-20 corridor that have a larger contingent of black police officers. He said Arcadia has seven black officers to only two white officers. Other communities referenced were West Monroe (136 white to 77 black) and Shreveport (296 white to 185 black.)
"That lets me know there are black police officers somewhere," he said. "We should be represented better in these tax-funded jobs."
Answering Wallace's concerns, Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper said he has always been a proponent of hiring African American officers and said he has done so since becoming chief in 2011.
"I have hired 11 people since I walked through the door in 2011," he said. "Six have been white and five have been black."
Cropper said he had no control over hirings made prior to his election and that he could not terminate white officers without cause in order to make room for additional African Americans.
Cropper said he has actively sought to hire black officers and that on two occasions he had African Americans lined up for openings. The first candidate did not appear for his personnel interview, Cropper said, and the second candidate decided to go to work in another parish in order to make more money.
Also, Cropper said he has encouraged current African American officers to apply for detective or supervisor openings and also encouraged others to take the mandatory civil service exam to be a police officer. However, he said he has had little success thus far with his encouragement.
Mayor Bill Robertson asked Wallace and the NAACP to partner with the city and encourage members of the African American community to apply for openings in the police department.
"Our doors are always open," the mayor said. "My door is open and so is the chief's. Come talk to us. Help us find candidates.
"We have been conscious of hiring African Americans," he continued. "But we can certainly do better."