The racial makeup of city leaders, the police department and other municipal workers in Ferguson, Mo., played a central role in the media coverage and analysis of Michael Brown’s death, which is worth remembering as history repeats itself in Baltimore.
The Justice Department’s Ferguson report noted that although the city’s population was 67% black, just four of its 54 police officers fit that description. Moreover, “the Municipal Judge, Court Clerk, Prosecuting Attorney, and all assistant court clerks are white,” said the report. “While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff.”
Broad diversity is not a problem in Baltimore, where 63% of residents and 40% of police officers are black. The current police commissioner is also black, and he isn’t the first one. The mayor is black, as was her predecessor and as is a majority of the city council. Yet none of this “critically important” diversity seems to have mattered after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died earlier this month in police custody under circumstances that are still being investigated.