Black, Latinx people underrepresented in Chicago-area police departments, investigation finds

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Ross Weidner and Jonathan Fagg WLS logo
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Black, Latinx people underrepresented in area police forces
An I-Team data investigation found that Black and Latinx people are underrepresented in Chicago-area police departments, despite making up large parts of those communities.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Diversity data obtained and analyzed by the I-Team highlights the challenges many Chicago area police departments face in building organizations that look more like our communities.

In Aurora, Sgt. Edgar Gallardo is part of the police department's recruiting effort, seeking new officers from diverse backgrounds.

"Every culture has specific nuances and specific needs and it's important to hire people that understand those needs," Gallardo said.

"In communities of color, it's not really something that people teach their children to go out and join because policing as an institution has been confrontational towards people of color," said Aurora Police Deputy Chief Keith Cross.

An I-Team data analysis found that 72% of the Aurora police department is white compared to only 36% of the city's population. Deputy Chief Cross said the department is working to increase both Black and Latinx representation and is "making some headway but it's not going to be an overnight process."

The I-Team asked if the goal is to hire enough to reflect the current racial makeup of the population of Aurora.

"That's the goal. Again, it's easier said than done, but that's not going to deter us from trying," Cross said.

An I-Team data analysis of the police departments in Waukegan, Naperville and Elgin found over-representation of white people within those departments compared to the populations of those suburbs.

Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley told the I-Team in a statement: "The department is committed to ensuring our recruitment efforts are established with the primary objective of increasing diversity and recruiting the highest caliber of officers that mirror the demographics of our community. We will continue to focus our recruitment efforts so that we are maximizing a diverse workforce that reflects the Elgin community while also being intentional on our efforts to recruit women and minority candidates. The department will continue to explore solutions to increase the recruiting of diverse candidates."

A spokesman for the Naperville Police Department told the I-Team: "It should be the goal of every agency to mirror the demographics of its respective population. The Naperville Police Department is committed to this goal and will continue to analyze our recruitment strategies and partner with the community to try and diversify our personnel."

Waukegan Police did not respond to I-Team requests for comment.

In Hazel Crest where 87% of the Village is Black, 57% of the police are Black, a relatively high percentage compared to departments across metro Chicago. Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell R. Davis III said he's hopeful law enforcement reforms across the country can help better build community relationships.

"Our community demands it, our community wants their police department to have folks that look like them," Davis said. "It's about changing the culture in law enforcement, and you don't have to be a black person to be empathetic with somebody that's black, but you have to be willing to be empathetic with somebody that's black, and if you're not, then we don't need you. Because it's about serving all people equally.