EDITORIAL: Welcome effort to increase diversity

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Osborne "Moe " Robinson III, right, speaks along with York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, center, and retiring York City Police Chief Troy Bankert during a press conference announcing Osborne as the next city police chief Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at York City Hall. Bill Kalina photo

Thumbs up: To the York City Police Department for taking positive and much-needed steps to diversify its ranks.

The department has announced plans to partner with York College students to better understand — and rectify — its woesome lack of diversity. Of the more than 100 officers who make up the department, some 90 percent of them are white. That’s far from reflective of a city whose Latinx and African-American residents account for nearly 60 percent of the population.

This isn’t a new problem, nor is it unique to York. City police departments around the country have long fallen short in representing the communities they serve.

More:York City Police looks to understand lack of diversity in its ranks

More:York City mayor, activists agree on how to diversify police department

The results can range from minor difficulties in communication to major civil unrest. The latter was seen in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager lit off a powder keg of frustrations fueled by years of mistreatment by a largely white police force.

No such outbreaks are threatening York, of course, but the department must nonetheless improve its recruitment and retention efforts to attract and maintain more officers of color.

“Our goal is to obviously represent the people we serve,” police spokesman Derek Hartman told the Dispatch. 

It’s a worthy goal, and it must be met.

Thumbs down: To the out-of-touch decision makers at the Hallmark Channel for their tone-deaf performance when it comes to diversity.

Unlike the York Police Department, the head honchos at Hallmark seem to be going backward when it comes to inclusiveness, rather than forward. How else to explain their rash decision to ban commercials by wedding planner Zola because they featured a same-sex couple at the altar?

The decision, made after complaints by a conservative group known as One Million Moms, was quickly reversed. It had to be: Not only is it 2019 and not only are same-sex marriages legal, but Hallmark itself sells a line of LGBTQ greeting cards.

More:In reversal, Hallmark will reinstate same-sex marriage ads

This image made from undated video provided by Zola shows a scene of its advertisement that was pulled from The Hallmark Channel. The Hallmark Channel says it will reinstate the same-sex marriage commercials.

But the damage has been done and it may well linger, in part because the network’s heavy doses of Christmas fare are known for being long on white, Christian storylines and short on just about everything else.

It also doesn’t help that actress Hilarie Burton chimed in with a story of being told “take it leave it” by Hallmark bigwigs after requesting greater diversity in the casting of a movie she was to star in for the TV network. She left it.

More performers — and, just as importantly, viewers — may do the same if the Hallmark Channel doesn’t make progress in diversifying its offerings.

Thumbs down: To the apparent public disinterest in helping York City leaders revise and update their comprehensive plan.

We get it: It’s hard to think of two less scintillating words than “comprehensive plan.” But the York City Comprehensive Plan is incredibly vital, laying out development and infrastructure direction for at least the next decade. That covers areas that impact city residents’ lives, including zoning policies and the prevalence of affordable housing.

And it’s a not-everyday chance for citizens to provide real input at the beginning of an important process.

More:York City asked for input, but few showed up

York City holds the final public hearing on the upcoming comprehensive plan, Monday, December 16, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Still, public participation has been underwhelming. The 10 meetings held throughout the city have attracted fewer than 100 residents.

It will no doubt be tempting for city leaders to throw up their hands in frustration, figure they’ve done their due diligence, and carry on absent adequate public input. They must resist this temptation and, rather, explore new ways to meet residents where they live.

That may mean online surveys, phone interviews or pop-up presentations at popular gathering places like the Central Market.

Whatever it takes, city officials should work just a little harder to think of creative ways to engage residents on this important issue.