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Nashville police chief John Drake addresses the media in December, 2020. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Nashville police are taking new steps to boost diversity in the department, but officials acknowledge it could be years before we see tangible results.

Why it matters: Racial and gender diversity have been lacking in the department for years. The latest data shows previous efforts have failed to bring police diversity in line with community demographics.

By the numbers: Police launched a data dashboard this summer that shows low representation of Black, Hispanic, and women officers. Numbers on racial and ethnic diversity haven't budged much since 2016.

  • Of the 1,423 sworn officers reflected on the dashboard last week, only about 11% are Black. About 24% of Nashvillians are Black.
  • 2% of sworn officers are Hispanic. 1% are Asian.
  • About 11% are women.

The latest: A series of changes this year aims to recruit and retain more diverse officers.

  • ​​New policies reverse rules against religious headwear and beards that might have driven some groups away from the department. Officers are also doing more recruiting outreach in underrepresented communities.
  • Push ups and sit ups were eliminated from fitness tests and replaced with tasks that correspond with what officers do on the job, such as jumping fences or pulling heavy weights.
  • After the changes, physical test failures fell from 11% to 5%. HR Cmdr. Daniel Newbern told Axios the change resulted in more women and minorities moving through the pipeline.

But, but, but: Nashville isn’t the only department pursuing this goal. Agencies across the country are competing for recruits, amplifying the challenge.

The bottom line: This is a long game.

  • "The problem with it is it's not a measuring stick you do within a few months," Newbern said. "You want your perfect police department right now. So do we, but in all reality it's a gradual change."

Go deeper

Supreme Court upholds qualified immunity for police officers

Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued two rulings for separate cases in Oklahoma and California upholding a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which has been used to shield officers from lawsuits alleging excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity has been a focus of police reform efforts and would force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 18, 2021 - Technology

Tech's post-hiring diversity problems

Former Google AI ethicist Timnit Gebru was a featured speaker at this year's Grace Hopper Celebration. Photo courtesy of Timnit Gebru

Organizations, even some of those focused on getting more people of color and women into technology, say it is past time to focus on the institutional racism and sexism that awaits those women and people of color who do enter the field.

Why it matters: Just getting a more diverse group of college graduates joining tech won't help if harassment and discrimination continue to push qualified people out of the field.

Updated 22 hours ago - World

Man with bow and arrow kills 5, wounds 2 in Norway

Police work at the scene in Kongsberg, Norway, on Oct. 13. Photo: Torstein Be/NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Police accused a 37-year-old Danish man on Monday of using "stabbing weapons" and a bow and arrow in a rampage that left five people dead and two others wounded in Norway last week.

The latest: Norwegian police said in a statement Monday that they have confiscated unspecified weapons, clarifying that the suspect seems to have first shot at some people with a bow and arrow, but then killed them with "stabbing weapon" in the town of Kongsberg.

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