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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

May 28, 2006

Written by C.N.

Lack of Representation in Police Departments

It’s no secret that Asian Americans have become majorities in many cities and communities all around the U.S. Most of these towns are located in California but there are several in the New York City/northern New Jersey metropolitan area as well. However, their growing numbers are unfortunately not represented in these cities’ police departments:

Over the past 20 years, so many Korean strivers have crossed the Hudson River from New York City enclaves that almost half of the 17,000 residents are Korean-American and 90 percent of the shops are Korean-owned. But while Koreans have transformed Palisades Park, one place where they have had only a marginal impact is its police department.

Of the 42 police and traffic officers, only 3 are Korean. And other New Jersey communities that have had robust influxes of Asians stepping up to the comforts of suburbia, like Fort Lee, Edison, Leonia, Closter and Ridgefield, also have tiny fractions of Asian officers, or none at all. The reason is not principally old-boy-network favoritism or outright discrimination, some New Jersey Asian officers say.

Rather, they say, [few are] applying for police jobs. Often, Asian parents who have high ambitions for their children will tell sons or daughters who aspire to police work that it is not the type of career for which they endured the upheaval of immigration. Then, too, Koreans, Chinese and some other Asians come from societies that look down upon police officers as corrupt, brutal or unlettered.

The article highlights some of the concerns that Asian Americans (particularly parents) tend to have about becoming police officers. It also highlights that some localities, such as the NYPD, have made notable gains. However, it also mentions that mechanism of disadvantage still exist for Asian Americans who want to become police officers.

The benefits of having a police force that mirrors the characteristics of their community should be pretty obvious, especially when it comes to Asian immigrants, many of whom may be reluctant to trust law enforcement officials. So again, the question comes down to whether police departments will walk the walk — instead of just talking the talk — and actively and sincerely recruit Asian police officers.

Or will they just let the status quo and organizational inertia rule the day while the rest of American society passes them by?

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Lack of Representation in Police Departments" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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