By Steve Patterson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are calls for police departments nationwide to implement diversity training and diversify the ranks of officers.READ MORE: Philadelphia Students Finding Comfort In Rec Centers Again Amid Gun Violence Epidemic
Eyewitness News reporter Steve Patterson takes a look at the effort to recruit minorities to the Philadelphia Police Department.
In mid-December Philadelphia Police Cadet Class 369 graduated 39 new officers.
Of those 39, less than 20 percent were minorities.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey admits recruiting is a problem in the department – particularly minorities – especially black men.
“It’s difficult in terms of recruiting minorities,” He said. “Our biggest problem is African American males, we’re doing everything we can to try to address it.”
And he says the anti-police sentiment across the country isn’t helping.
“Policing is being challenged right now in a lot of different ways,” he said. “Makes it a little less attractive to some people.”
Retired Philadelphia Police Officer Rochelle Bilal is the President of Philadelphia’s Guardian Civic League, a local chapter of the National Black Police Association.
“When you have people that don’t understand your culture that come into your neighborhood changes things,” she said.
She told CBS 3 scenarios like Ferguson are a direct result of a lack of diversity in policing and a recent increase in physical, mental and educational requirements to be an officer – are blocking the people they need.
“You keep allowing this to continue and it will change the face of this police department.”READ MORE: 'I Thought I Was Done': Residents Of Trevose Mobile Home Park Pick Up The Pieces After EF-3 Tornado
New guidelines took affect in October of last year.
Requiring new recruits to pass a ninth grade reading test, pass a polygraph, pass a physical fitness test, all before entering the academy.
Bilal says the biggest roadblock, the department requires 60 college course credits.
“We want them to eliminate the 60 credits. 60 credits doesn’t determine character,” Billal said. “Doesn’t determine common sense.”
According to statistics from the department, the requirements have had an effect.
Dropping minority representation from 35 percent to 31 percent. Women’s enrollment actually went up a few points, but black male already only representing 16 percent of the department, now only 12 percent.
Ramsey says he won’t sacrifice quality.
“I really take offense to the idea that you have to lower standards to help minorities get a job,” he said. “I think the people who are saying this aught to think about what they’re saying.”
The commissioner said a number of community outreach programs are in place to improve the numbers. Bilal told us she doesn’t have a problem with a ‘smarter’ department, she just wants to see requirements relaxed at the ground floor.
“I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t want it mandated from the door,” she said. “We want diversity to maintain itself and the blocks that have stopped people of color from coming on this job, we need them erased.”
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