State police trooper workforce continues to lack diversity

The Michigan State Police’s 144th Trooper recruit class. (Photo via State of Michigan)

By Michigan Advance

December 8, 2023

BY KEN COLEMAN, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

Of the 61 Michigan State Police (MSP) graduates on Nov. 22, 56 of them were white, according to MSP data. The results have upset some leading people of color.

Colonel James F. Grady II, a 25-year police veteran in Michigan, was appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to lead the agency in September. He is the third African American to lead MSP in state history. Grady told the Advance through a statement on Wednesday that he is committed to improving racial and gender diversity.

“Recruiting is a priority, and I am committed to continuing to re-evaluate our hiring and promotional processes to ensure fair and equitable opportunities for all applicants,” Grady said. “I find the demographics of our applicant pool unacceptable, and as Colonel, I am committed to ensuring minority representation within the department that mirrors the state of Michigan.”

Of the recent MSP graduating class, 49 were white men; seven were white women. For example, 25 Black men applied; only three graduated. Only four Black women applied; there were no Black woman graduates. Similarly, 13 Latino males applied; the recent class did not have a Latino male; one Latino woman applied and was not part of the graduating class. Moreover, the class does have a member who identifies as an Asian woman.

Michigan is about 14% percent African American; about 6% Latino; about 3% Asian; about 1% Indigenous. The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide data specific to the size of the Arab and Chaldean communities.

Overall, there are approximately 1,170 MSP troopers assigned statewide, and a total of 1,867 enlisted members in the MSP. Black men and women collectively compose 5% of the enlisted force.

“Maybe they need to visit Coleman Young’s gravesite and ask him how to get it done,” said the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a noted Detroit clergy and civil rights leader, referring to the late Michigan state Senator and Detroit mayor who continually fought for more Blacks on the MSP force during the 1960s and ‘70s. Young, an African American, died in 1997.

The Michigan State Police hired its first Black trooper after civil disturbance rocked Detroit. Jack Hall became Michigan’s first black Michigan State Police officer in August 1967.

Prior to his service as a trooper, Hall had been a Benton Harbor police officer for five years and had completed one year of studies at Lake Michigan Junior College.

“Maybe this will help to kill the myth that Negroes can’t get on the State Police force,” MSP Director Col. Frederick Davids declared at the time.

Grady has called for strong recruitment efforts in urban communities.

“While it is important to recruit future candidates from all areas of our state, in order to increase the representation of minorities, we must place a stronger focus on recruiting in communities of color, to include the cities of Detroit, Inkster, Saginaw, Flint, Benton Harbor, Dearborn, Muskegon and Grand Rapids, among other cities. The policing profession has had a checkered history regarding race and recent incidents across our country have confirmed there are still bad police officers.

“While I believe that most police officers are doing great work, there is culture change needed within our profession,” Grady added. “The success of our recruiting strategy requires the support and assistance of community leaders who can work alongside us to overcome the negative narrative hovering over the profession and to usher in a return to the noble nature of this career.”

MSP, according to its communication’s office, has collaborated with the Wilson Talent Center in the Lansing School District. It has also held a student summit with Detroit high school students in March at Wayne County Community College. In addition, MSP is working to establish relationships with Westland Public Schools and the Detroit Public Safety Academy.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, Michigan chair of the National Action Network, a leading civil rights organization, said that MSP should expand its recruiting reach to groups like his.

“I have yet to be asked by the [MSP] to do anything as a Detroit sector person…there isn’t any real relationship between us and the state police here in Detroit,” Williams, pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church, said.

In September when announcing her appointment of Grady, Whitmer said that “he has earned the respect of troopers across the department and community leaders throughout the state, including in southeast Michigan where he spent the majority of his service.”

“He has a knack for bringing everyone together to solve problems, and our state is a better place for it,” Whitmer said. “He will do a great job leading our state’s top law enforcement agency.”

Whitmer praised the “diversity” of the 61-person class.

“I am proud of the 61 Michiganders in this class who represent the rich diversity of our state,” she said. “They will help make Michigan a better, safer place we can all be proud to call home, where everyone feels safe on the road, in their neighborhood, and at school.”

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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