The Police Department Race Gap in Houston's Suburbs

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, growing scrutiny has been placed on police departments across the country with a particular focus on department demographics. Given the fact that Ferguson's citizenry is predominantly black, but minorities representing only a small percentage of the police force, it makes sense that departments across the U.S. being looked at through a similar lens.

The New York Times did exactly that, looking at "The Race Gap in America's Police Departments," complete with maps and graphs to illustrate the point that many police forces in major metropolitan areas do not represent, from a racial standpoint, the communities they serve.

There are a couple of exceptions, however, and Houston is one of them.

According to the statistics they gathered, HPD, one of the largest police departments in the country, is 27 percent more white than the city, but with relatively similar racial divisions as Houston. There are other cities with lower percentages, but the majority of them have populations that are mostly caucasian like Boston. There are also a few like Miami and Atlanta whose departments have much greater racial similarity to their communities.

But, almost universally, the numbers are quite different when you leave the municipality and head into the surrounding communities and suburbs. In the case of Houston, South Houston, which is 88 percent Hispanic, has a police force that is 72 percent white. Pasadena's 62 percent Hispanic majority is policed by a department that is 85 percent white. And in Humble where 62 percent of the community is divided between black and Hispanic, 83 percent of the police are white.

Where the numbers line up best are in predominantly white suburbs like Nassau Bay (10 percent more white) and Bellaire, which has a police department one percent less white than the neighborhood.

These numbers shouldn't be all that surprising to anyone. In many cities in the south, the racial diversity and political leanings of those inside the city limits tend to be dramatically different from those in the 'burbs. But the fact that so many police forces around the country are made up of officers who are racially dissimilar, sometimes radically so, from those they serve is worth noting, especially with what happened in Ferguson.


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