Aspiring Black cops in Philadelphia are speaking out about the hurdles they faced joining the police force, accusing the whole process of being racist.
According to NBC Philadelphia, Black candidates are disproportionately left out of the police force due to a process that potentials deem “unfair” to Black people.
Miya Anderson is one person who applied twice to be apart of the Philadelphia police force. She says she was denied both times for arbitrary or racist reasons.
“It’s very unfair. And the only reason behind it is because I’m Black, honestly, to be totally honest. That’s just what it is,” the 25-year-old said.
Anderson was rejected from the police academy on her first attempt because she wrote that she was honorably discharged from the National Guard.
“They said that I falsified by saying that I was honorably, honorably discharged instead of general discharge,” she explained. Anderson left the National Guard after four months because she was pregnant. Due to the brevity of her service, she was given an “uncharacterized” discharge. Anderson said she assumed that because she wasn’t dishonorably discharged that the only other classification was honorable.
She applied to the academy once again last year and made note of her uncharacterized discharge. She passed the reading and agility test and was offered a position to the academy pending a background investigation.
“I passed everything with no problems. And this time, I believe Wednesday, before the class started, they brought up a car accident that my sister was involved in,” she said.
Anderson had lent her sister her car in 2017 and her sister crashed the vehicle. However, the accident went on Anderson’s record. Anderson said her rejection letter cited a poor driving record and poor work history. She had a record of three traffic infractions, including driving without a license, between 2015 and 2017. However, when she applied for the academy again in 2019, she had a valid driver’s license and she had zero points on her license.
As for her “poor work history,” Anderson simply switched between jobs prior to applying for the academy. She worked as a corrections officer, she worked for a security company and before this, she worked at McDonald’s and as a personal care aide.
“This is what I wanted to do since I was seven or eight years old. And for me to keep hitting these roadblocks when I know that I would be an amazing officer and I would be fair, I feel like it’s just very frustrating,” Anderson said.
According to the Philadelphia police statistics, nearly 70% of applicants who arrive for orientation to take the reading and agility tests are Black, Hispanic, Asian or other. Only 31% of applicants are white.
Despite this, in the last year, 71% of the recruits who make it into the police academy were white while just 29% were people of color. The January recruit class had zero Black recruits.
“That class alone told me how much racism and implicit bias is inside the police department that nobody took notice,” explained David Fisher, a retired Philadelphia police detective and the president of the local chapter of the National Black Police Association. Fisher has been trying to help Black police candidates through the application process for years, but he says he’s often let down by an arbitrary and racist process.
“Poor driving record, poor work history, poor credit history. You know, these are the reasons that people don’t make it through the process,” Fisher said. “I’m waiting for someone to define what is poor character. What do you classify as poor credit?”
Another Black candidate, Qaadir Council, decided to apply for the Philadelphia police academy in 2018. After serving nine years in the National Guard, he says he was rejected because he was described as mentally unfit, according to the rejection letter received by mail.
Council said he thinks the rejection stemmed from a psychological evaluation he had with a white doctor who he says kept asking him about his feelings towards his father. Council didn’t live with his dad when coming of age. Council said he told the doctor that living in Philadelphia, it was normal to not be raised by his father and he was not depressed about the situation. According to Council, the doctor still asked such questions like why he wasn’t living with his own two children.
“Given the interview that I saw from the white candidate before, I feel like it was definitely racial bias,” Council, said. He said that while he waited to see the doctor, a white candidate entered and had a short and friendly conversation with the doctor. He didn’t witness the doctor asking the white candidate questions about his father.
These testimonies come as the police department’s demographics have failed to coincide with the city’s changing demographics. Right now, 44% of Philadelphia residents are Black while 34% are white. However, the police department, which is made up of 6,500 sworn officers, is 57% white.
The number of Black cops within the Philadelphia Police Department has been dropping since 2000. Around this time, a consent decree requiring the city hire a certain amount of Black officers each class expired.
The Police department went from 24% Black people in 1990 to 35% Black people in 2000. But now, in 2020, the force has dropped to 30% Black.