7 On Your Side Investigates looked into the diversity of local police departments to see how representative they are, or aren't, of the communities they patrol. It's part of a nationwide police diversity project at ABC News.
There are stark differences in the Tri-State when it comes to how many minorities are employed at various law enforcement agencies. Suburban areas in the northeast tend to have whiter police forces.
You can check the diversity of your local law enforcement agency compared to the makeup of the local population in the map below.
Out of all the areas in the Tri-State, New York City has the most diverse police workforce.
The data shows the diversity of the officers fairly accurately reflects the demographics of the community. Plus, the amount of minorities applying to be officers continues to rise.
Diversity is something the NYPD has been working on for decades.
"It's incredibly important," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. "Despite all that, we knew we had to take it up a notch here and I think we did," he said when it comes to recruiting a more diverse workforce.
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However, 7 On Your Side Investigates also found numerous communities with large diversity gaps like those in Bergen County, New Jersey, and locations throughout Long Island.
"It's the total opposite here," Suffolk County Sheriff Erroll Toulon said. He became the first Black elected leader in Suffolk County, more than three years ago. He has been struggling to bring more diversity to his department ever since.
"Being the first Black to assume this role has been something that has been not only rewarding but also very challenging," Toulon said.
A 2021 Sheriff report shows only about 12% of the department's deputies and corrections staff are minorities, which is well below the 32% of minorities that make up the county's population.
"It's something that we're working on very vigilantly," Toulon said.
The sheriff says he has recruited just about everywhere, but is competing with higher paid agencies, jobs that are less dangerous, and an overall lack of interest.
"I think now with the culture of anti-law enforcement I think we need to really re-engage with our communities to gain that trust back," Toulon said.
Some police critics say, it needs to happen from the top down. For example, the Suffolk Sheriff has no Black deputies in leadership positions. They had two as of last year, one retired and one passed away.
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"It's very important to diversify the top tier management because they're the ones at the end of the day that are the ones to change the policies," said Irma Solis of the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
A newly published study shows, out of the country's 100 largest cities, fatal shootings by officers are almost 50% higher in cities with white police chiefs.
"That's striking," said Stephen Wu of Hamilton College who authored the study. "What's striking I think is the sheer magnitude of it, it's something I did not expect."
Sheriff Toulon says he has learned to manage his expectations. There's no easy way to close the diversity gap but he believes doing so is better for everyone.
"Whether it's the style of clothing that they wear, whether it's the music that they're listening to, whether it's just the way that they talk, there's a different understanding," he said.
Data Journalist Frank Esposito contributed to this story.
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