Violence sparks look at racial makeup of police

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office employees mostly reflect makeup of Duval County

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a rash of gang violence in Jacksonville and recent riots in Baltimore over a suspect's fatal injuries in police custody, News4Jax is digging into the racial makeup of Jacksonville's police force.

According to the raw data News4Jax received Monday, the breakdown of hires in Duval County for the most part resembles the racial makeup of Jacksonville, except for the population of Hispanics and Asians.

There are nearly 3,000 employees of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on the street or at the jail, officers and civilians alike.

Looking at the department, 65 percent are white. In Duval County, the population is 55.6 percent white, according to the latest estimate from the Census Bureau.

DOCUMENT: Racial breakdown of JSO workforce

About 28 percent of the department is made up of black employees, while 30 percent of Duval County is black.

Sheriff John Rutherford, whose 12 years in office will end July 1, said he made it a campaign promise to make the department more representative of the community. He said he has done that in the jail but has work to do on the street.

Rutherford said he was close to matching the racial makeup of the county when the department had community service officers. Those officers could work their way through the ranks, but that program was cut from the budget. Rutherford wants it back.

"The beauty of that community service officer program is that a lot of those kids, many of them were out of the very targeted neighborhood we want representation from," Rutherford said. "They're seen as role models in those communities. They were seen as guys who made it."

New4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, a former JSO officer, said recruiters for the department make an effort to diversify the workforce.

"It is something they work on," Smith said. "The recruiters, they go to all the historically black colleges, black expos, any event that is going to be predominantly African-American."

Hispanics make up 4.8 percent of the JSO workforce, while 8.3 percent of Duval County is Hispanic. And 1.7 percent of JSO workers are Asian, while 4.5 percent of Duval County's population is Asian.

Isaiah Rumlin of the NAACP said he's not surprised by the racial makeup of the department, but he said he sees something else that he finds troubling: the makeup of appointed officials like the undersheriff and directors.

Of the top brass, 14 are white, three are black and one is Hispanic.

"It's that upper management, I think, where changes need to be made, and something is going to have to be done with the new sheriff coming in, whoever that will be," Rumlin said. "They are going to have to do something with that upper management and make some changes there to trickle down to the street level."

News4Jax also looked at how Jacksonville's numbers compare to the racial breakdown of Baltimore's police force. Officials in Baltimore said their workforce is 48 percent black and 48 percent white. The population of Baltimore is 26 percent white.

News4Jax has also requested data on how many excessive force complaints and lawsuits have been filed against JSO in the past five years. We'll do a story on those numbers when we receive the data. 

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.