Nov 082005
 
Authors: James Baetke

Chief Dexter Yarbrough is a man set with a vision to turn a once white male-dominated CSU Police Department into a police force diverse enough to better mirror the campus and community.

"We should have a fair representation of what CSU is," said Yarbrough, who is black.

According to data provided by Cpl. Yvonne Paez, spokeswomen for CSUPD, the campus police department reports that 70 percent of its sworn officers are white, while 30 percent are minorities – 10 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic.

There are about 20 percent females sworn in as CSUPD officers and 80 percent male.

Cathy Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Denver, echoes similar notions that a police department should represent the community it serves to protect. This goes for the CSU campus and city of Fort Collins.

"When you have a diverse police force it encourages people to seek out law enforcement help," Hazouri said.

Yarbrough said beyond staffing diverse racial and ethnic employees, there are officers on the force who are openly gay, a fact that pleases Hazouri.

Hazouri said there are high incident rates of gay people who under-report crimes and for a police department to have homosexuals employed squelches that notion.

"One of the huge benefits of a diverse law enforcement is that diverse people feel more comfortable talking to someone more like them about crime or a safety issue," Hazouri said.

Yarbrough said when he was hired as police chief he had a vision to hire more people from diverse background. This year, the chief hired a new assistant police chief who is black. He also prides the department on a diverse staff of student employees.

"Before anyone can be hired they go through me," Yarbrough said.

Fort Collins Police Services report lower numbers of diversity, but representatives from the force say they fairly represent the community in the number of diverse officers compared to the population of the city.

Of the 157 officers sworn in working with the FCPS about 82 percent are male and 18 percent female. Five black officers make up about 3 percent of the force, 7 percent are Hispanic, 89 percent are white and less than 1 percent are Asian.

"We are looking for qualified individuals, but we are also looking for those of different backgrounds," said Rita Davis, spokeswomen for FCPS.

The Larimer County Sheriff's office reports having 100 sworn officers who work in patrol and investigations, 94 of them are male, 6 are female. There are no black officers, 2 Hispanics and 1 Native American and Asian, respectively.

These statistics do not take into account sworn in officers who work in the prison corrections system, only those officers who are in the community every day.

For Paez, having a diverse workplace makes the experience positive and culturally enhancing. She does recognize many police departments do not have this diversity and said it is important, at minimum, to have the mentality about diversity.

"It is really important to have diversity, but if you cannot get it, for heaven's sakes, get the mentality," Paez said. "What you can have, no matter the diversity, are individuals that have a diverse mentality."

Paez has been an officer with CSUPD for 10 years and has since seen "light years" of progress from where the force used to stand on diversity.

Paez, who grew up in Mexico and speaks English as a second language, said no one person is responsible for the increased amount of diversity with campus police.

"It is the cumulative effort of many people who have passed through here," she said.

Paez credits Yarbrough with the recent boom in diversity and gives long-term dues to CSUPD veteran Cpl. Veronica Olivas for continually reminding the staff to take a look at the diversity around them and putting her "comfort on the line."

According to officials with FCPS, CSUPD and the Larimer County Sheriff's office, using quotas as a hiring element is not practiced.

"We have expanded our horizons, but we have further to go," Paez said.

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