Sunday, November 19, 2000

Ky. troopers diversify, slowly

Minorities, women find few role models in higher ranks

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The latest graduating class of Kentucky State Police cadets shows the agency is making an effort to become more diverse, officials said.

        The class of 74 new troopers who graduated Thursday included a white woman, a Hispanic man, six black men and two black women, along with 64 white men.

        “Our job is to ensure that the diversity of each class is better than the last one. The next one will be even better than this,” said Capt. Gerald Nauert, commander of the recruitment office.

        Gaps remain. The state's 962 troopers hardly represent a cross-section of Kentucky:

        • 7 percent of Kentucky's population is black, while fewer than 4 percent of troopers are black.

        • About half of the state is female, but only 3 percent of troopers are women.

        • The Hispanic man in the latest class is only the second Hispanic trooper. The state has seen an influx of thousands of Hispanic migrants in recent years.

        Even when the force attracts female and minority candidates, it can't always keep them. Two other black women joined the state police during the late 1990s. One worked 13 months and the other worked six months, officials said.

        Geography provides much of the diversity challenge, Capt. Nauert said. Many blacks and women in the state's largest cities frown on the thought of moving to the rural, sometimes remote counties in which troopers are most active, Capt. Nauert said.

        The force tries to attract qualified minority and female applicants by sending its recruitment teams to job fairs and other events featuring minorities and women, Capt. Nauert said. But that doesn't always work.

        “At the minority job expo this last weekend (in Louisville), one of the questions people asked is, "Why should I move across the state to Mayfield when I can stay home and work with the Louisville or Jefferson County police?'” Capt. Nauert said. “That's a tough question for us to answer.”

        Added Lt. Kevin Payne, a state police spokesman: “We go where we can to recruit minorities. But we can't force them to sign the applications.”

        Gerry Harris, a black lawyer who served with the Lexington police department from 1982 to 1989, said minority recruits usually won't stay on the job unless it's clear they can advance.

        “People have to feel like they really have equal opportunity, or they'll leave,” Mr. Harris said. “When I got on the Lexington police force, I looked around to see how many black people were above the rank of patrolman. There weren't many. Maybe three or four. That was pretty discouraging.”

        Recruiting women is just as hard, said Marsha Beasley, director of personnel for the West Virginia State Police.

        “It's not just black women. Recruiting women is just difficult. It's a mind set. You never hear female teens, even today, talking about wanting to grow up to be a trooper,” Ms. Beasley said.

        West Virginia uses advertising campaigns and billboards, participates in high school and college career fairs and includes minorities in the recruiting process to attract a diverse group of applicants, officials said.

        Shallon Clark, a two-year veteran of the West Virginia State Police, is that agency's only black woman. An athlete, Trooper Clark said she didn't have a difficult time with the required agility tests, but some women do.

        “I ran track and played ball from the time I was 4 or 5, so passing the physical wasn't a problem for me. But some women have trouble, especially with push-ups. I love what I do. I couldn't see myself doing anything else, but I don't know if many females feel comfortable going into a male-dominated workplace.”

        The two black women in Kentucky's newest class are Troopers Rugina Lunce and Melody Parker. They know they will be under scrutiny.

        “I'm here for the duration,” said Trooper Lunce, who will begin her assignment Monday at the Columbia post.


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