Rochester Looks to Diversify Police Force

Updated: 09/03/2014 6:58 PM
Created: 09/03/2014 6:48 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 News) -- Rochester is one of the fastest growing cities in Minnesota. With that growth, comes change, especially when it comes to how diverse the city is.

But that diversity isn't exactly shown when it comes to the police department.

Police officers in Rochester respond to all kinds of calls. Now, it's the faces behind the badges that are being looked at a little more closely.

"We're not where we want to be," said Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson.

Peterson admits his police force doesn't reflect the community, when it comes to diversity, and that's a problem.

"It actually affects how well we can do our job and ultimately that affects public safety in our community. So that's very important to us," said Peterson.

According to census data, around 21 percent of Rochester's population is made up of ethnicities other than white. On the Rochester police force, it's about half of that, at less than eleven percent.

"It is no secret that it's not nearly diversified to reflect the community that we live in today," said Kollah Nimley.

Officers like Rey Caban, who is from Puerto Rico, make up a small percentage of the force. But how can that be changed? Chief Peterson says looking at different hiring practices might be a good place to start.

"What kind of efforts are we doing to make sure that who's applying is actually reflective of our community? And are we being successful at that? Because you could post a job and hope that you get diversity in applicants. Or you can actually go out and work at that," said Chief Peterson.

Kollah Nimley is with the State of Minnesota's Black Council. She says the police force needs to change the way the City of Rochester is.

"We are already growing a diverse community. But our workforce does not reflect that," said Nimley.

Chief Peterson agrees, and says it's an issue he'll focus on.

"It's certainly not one of those things you say, oh we've done that now. We've hired more women, or we've hired more African-Americans, etc. Now we don't need to be concerned about that. No, we always do, just because of that reason, our community is changing," said Chief Peterson.

Photo: ABC 6 News