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The York City Police Department has partnered with York College in an attempt to pinpoint why it has trouble recruiting minority candidates.

The majority-white department announced this month that four York College students will conduct two focus groups and report their findings as to why the department can't seem to diversify. The report will also aim to suggest possible remedies.

"Our goal is to obviously represent the people we serve," police spokesman Derek Hartman said. "For example, it's difficult if we have a certain Spanish-speaking population, and we have little Spanish-speaking officers."

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The department touts about 100 officers, 90% of whom are white. York City officials have long struggled to recruit local police officers who are people of color. The topic has garnered criticism from the public at a variety of city meetings.

Latinos make up 32% of the city's population, according to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, while 26% of the residents are black.

Student researchers at York College have created and conducted two questionnaires to gather data for their presentation, which is expected to be completed after the 2020 spring semester.

The first questionnaire was distributed to recent applicants to the department who began the process but didn't follow through. The second was sent to a general population of those involved in a criminal justice or related program considering a law enforcement career.

In general, a decreasing applicant pool has been a problem for the department for the past 12 to 15 years, Hartman said, and the number of applicants has plunged.

Minority recruitment has been an even larger issue.

In response, outgoing York City Police Chief Troy Bankert has developed a recruitment plan for the department, which includes ideas as to how to diversify the police department.

One initiative suggested in the plan is to create a scholarship for a city resident — who would be more likely to be black or Latino — to attend the police academy.

The scholarship could also require that the resident belong to a minority group, the plan states. Recipients of such a scholarship could then serve as an ambassador for future recipients.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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