Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office slowly diversifying deputy ranks

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) began keeping track of the race and gender of its civilian and sworn personnel in 2008.  According to the data I received from the HCSO for the Lt. June Johnson discrimination complaint story, the numbers of women and racial minorities have increased slightly over the years since then.  The total number of deputies with the HCSO has increased from 327 six years ago, to 340 in 2013.  Female deputies have increased from 14 percent of the force in 2008, to about 16 percent in 2013.  However, there are more women working on the civilian side of the Sheriff’s Office than men.

The HCSO is less diverse when it comes to racial minorities. Since 2008, racial minorities (the data is not broken down into specific categories) among the ranks of sworn personnel have gone from 5 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2013.   In the civilian ranks, racial minorities have consistently made up less than 10 percent of personnel since 2008.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Kiava says the office is proud of its efforts to diversify the ranks.  And she says participation in a program called Law Enforcement And Diversity, (LEAD) has helped the Sheriff’s Office increase the amount of women and racial minorities on the force over the years.  The program allows the department to help female and minority deputy hopefuls pay for their education, so they can be hired by the Sheriff’s Office.  “We would like to have more people included in this program every year,” said Kiava.  “And we would if funding would allow us to do so.  But we only have the funding at this time for two people per year.”

Kiava says the Sheriff’s Office has also promoted women and people of color.  She points out the level of lieutenant, which June Johnson attained, is a high rank within the department.

“Starting with Sheriff McGowan, in the mid 1990s, there’s always been a woman or a minority on the Sheriff’s Office top command staff. So for many decades now there’s always been a woman or a minority on the Sheriff’s Office top command staff,” Kiava said.

The Minneapolis Police Department has done a little better with minority recruitment.  The sworn force of the Minneapolis department, which is more than twice as large as the HCSO,  is also more diverse.  The most recent data from the MPD show around 20 percent of officers are people of color.   Minneapolis police officials say there are 127 female officers in the MPD .  At 15 percent of the sworn MPD officers, that’s close to the percent of female sheriff’s deputies.

The HCSO’s deputy ranks also are statistically whiter than Hennepin County as a whole.  According to 2010 Census data, 77 percent of Hennepin County residents are white.  The 2013 roster of sheriff’s deputies is 91 percent white.