Hamtramck’s police force is long overdue for a makeover

Hamtramck has a chance of taking a small step toward diversifying the ethnic makeup of the Police Department.

The department currently has two African-American officers on the force out of about 40. There are also four women on the force.

And that’s it as far as race, ethnicity and gender go. The rest of the force is made up of white males.

Before we go on, let’s make one thing clear. This is in no way a criticism of the current officers and detectives. They had nothing to do with the department’s hiring practices in the past or present.

And let’s make another thing clear. Newly retiring Police Chief Mark Kalinowski’s approach to hiring, which was to hire the cream of the crop no matter what the candidate’s race, gender or ethnicity was, was not a bad policy either.

Only thing is, it always ended up being a white male.

For an ethnically diverse city like Hamtramck, there are skills we need in officers that don’t directly translate into how well they scored on the police placement test.

We need a Police Department that reflects the ethnic and racial makeup of Hamtramck, and this need has not been adequately addressed for decades.

There is currently a chance to hire a Bengali police candidate who finished somewhere around 30th in the latest officer test. The bottom line to keep in mind, this candidate passed the test to become an officer.

Credit here must go to City Councilmember Tom Jankowski for bringing this to light at this week’s council meeting. He as well as others on the council are urging the administration to take solid steps to begin the reshaping of the Police Department.

However, the city can’t gallop ahead and leapfrog over the other candidates who scored higher because we have to make it clear in the hiring process that we need special language and cultural skills.

The city has to tread carefully here because of state and federal employment laws. The city manager and city attorney are taking a close look at this issue and will draw up some guidelines that will meet those state and federal requirements.

Clearly, though, it’s past due for Hamtramck to diversify its police force.

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