September 5, 2014

Race makeup of local police staff mirror national trends

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The window for the  Urbana Police Department office inside the Urbana City Hall on Thursday, September 4, 2014. photo by Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access

Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access

The window for the Urbana Police Department office inside the Urbana City Hall on Thursday, September 4, 2014. photo by Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access

By Robert Holly/CU-CitizenAccess.org — The racial makeup of police departments across the country has grown to become a heated national issue after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown – an unarmed black teenager – in Ferguson, Mo., last month.

An initial analysis by CU-CitizenAccess.org of local police staff numbers revealed a  race gap mirrored in national and regional reports. The staff information was obtained through requests made under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Of the Champaign Police Department’s 142-member staff, 88 percent – or 125 individuals are white.

Of the Urbana Police Department’s 70-member staff, 59 individuals – about 84 percent of its staff – are white.

Of the 153-member Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, 141 individuals – about 92 percent of its staff –are white.

No agency officials were available for immediate comment, but CU-CitizenAccess.org will follow up with them for their viewpoints.

On Thursday, the New York Times published “The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments,” an article that found the percentage of whites in America’s police force is more than 30 percentage points higher than the communities they serve.

The racial make-up of the three local law enforcement bodies here also does not reflect the proportion of ethnicities in the area’s overall population.

A review of U.S. Census data shows that the city of Champaign is about 68 percent white, while the city of Urbana is about 60 percent white.

In Champaign County as a whole, about 75 percent of people are white.

CU-CitizenAccess.org will continue to cover this issue in the coming weeks. We welcome your thoughts and comments.