Police block protesters attempting to cross the Manhattan Bridge after the 8 p.m. curfew on June 2. (Holly Pickett for The Washington Post)

As police engage with protesters in cities across the United States, many major police forces are still much whiter than the communities where they work. Decades of reform have made police less white, but it has not been enough to keep pace with the changing demographics of the country.

This widening racial gap has left very few police forces that resemble the people they serve, which experts say can hinder community relations and affect crime rates.

The chart below compares the percent of a county population that was white in 2018 with the share of police working in that county who are white. Each dot represents a county. A dot along the diagonal line represents a county with about the same share of white police as population. A dot above the line has proportionally more white police than population, and those below the line have fewer. White in this case is white non-Hispanic.

How white are police compared with residents of the counties they work in

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

50%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

How white are police compared with

residents of the counties they work in

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

Harris Co., Tex.

(29% white)

Police: 39% white

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47% white)

Police: 39% white

50%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

How white are police compared with residents of the counties they work in

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

75%

50%

Harris Co., Tex.

(29% white)

Police: 39% white

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47% white)

Police: 39% white

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

How white are police compared with residents of the counties they work in

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

75%

Share of

white police

50%

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47% white)

Police: 39% white

Harris Co., Tex.

(29% white)

Police: 39% white

25%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

A county dot does not represent a single police department. It includes all law enforcement officers working in that county, so it can be one or more local police departments, plus state police assigned to that county, highway patrol, wildlife or natural resource protection officers, tribal officers, federal law enforcement stationed there, and even college or university police who have full authority as sworn police. It does not include sheriffs, bailiffs, court officers, jailers or other correctional officials. The number and racial makeup of police is taken from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, so it is an estimate.

A University of Maryland criminologist found that crime rates in minority neighborhoods are lower when local police and government diversity matches the community.

“When you have diverse police departments, diverse governments broadly speaking, that sets in motion dynamics that filter down to the community that galvanizes trust. That helps reduce crime,” said María Vélez, an associate professor in criminal justice.

Some of the most extreme disparities in police diversity are in places that have very few white residents, so the share of police is proportionately much greater.

Only about 12 percent of the population in Prince George’s County, Md., is white, but roughly 38 percent of the police in various departments in the county are white — making the police force more than three times as white. Just under 10 percent of Bronx residents are white, so the 33 percent of white police from various agencies is also three times as high.

Counties with large minority

populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

San Bernardino Co., Calif. (28% white) Police: 67%

Baltimore Co.,

Md. (57%)

Police: 85% white

Prince George’s Co., Md. (12%) Police: 38%

50%

Bronx Co., N.Y. (9%) Police: 33%

0

0

50%

100%

Majority nonwhite counties

Share of white population

Counties with large minority populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

San Bernardino Co., Calif. (28% white) Police: 67%

50%

Prince George’s Co., Md. (12%) Police: 38%

Bronx Co., N.Y. (9%) Police: 33%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Counties with large minority populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

San Bernardino Co., Calif. (28% white) Police: 67%

75%

50%

Prince George’s Co., Md. (12%) Police: 38%

Bronx Co., N.Y. (9%) Police: 33%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Counties with large minority populations and a

disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

San Bernardino Co., Calif. (28% white) Police: 67%

75%

Share of

white police

50%

Prince George’s Co., Md. (12%) Police: 38%

Bronx Co., N.Y. (9%) Police: 33%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

The value of diversity is not in changing police behavior but in changing how the community interacts with police, said Janice Iwama, an assistant criminology professor at American University whose research includes hate crime.

“If you see a white male police officer, if you are a woman or a person of color, you are less likely to approach them,” she said.

The lack of diversity is driven by difficulty in recruiting and retaining police, particularly as perceptions of the job sour.

“You just don’t see it as an attractive career any longer,” she said. “Situations like what is going on right now are not helping the recruitment and retention issue. It’s actually making it worse, I’m sure.”

In some communities, the population is relatively balanced between white and nonwhite, but the vast majority of the police are white. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, about 78 percent of the police are white, compared with 49 percent of the people. Baltimore County, which surrounds Baltimore City but does not include it, has about 85 percent white police patrolling an area that is 57 percent white. Milwaukee County, Wis., has about 83 percent white police and 51 percent white residents.

Counties with balanced minority and white populations and a

disproportionate number of

white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Baltimore Co.,

Md. (57%)

Police: 85% white

Milwaukee Co.,

Wis. (51% white)

Police: 83%

Wayne Co.,

Mich. (49%)

Police: 78% white

50%

0

0

50%

100%

Majority nonwhite counties

Share of white population

Counties with balanced minority and

white populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Baltimore Co.,

Md. (57%)

Police: 85% white

Milwaukee Co.,

Wis. (51% white)

Police: 83%

Wayne Co.,

Mich. (49%)

Police: 78% white

50%

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Counties with balanced minority and white populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Baltimore Co.,

Md. (57%)

Police: 85% white

Milwaukee Co.,

Wis. (51% white)

Police: 83%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

Wayne Co., Mich. (49%)

Police:

78% white

75%

50%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Counties with balanced minority and white populations and a disproportionate number of white police

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

100%

Baltimore Co.,

Md. (57%)

Police: 85% white

Milwaukee Co.,

Wis. (51% white)

Police: 83%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

Wayne Co., Mich. (49%)

Police:

78% white

75%

Share of

white police

50%

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, has a police force that closely matches the community, with a large share of both the population and police being white. In New York County, also known as Manhattan, 47 percent of the population is white and 39 percent of the police are white. Philadelphia has a greater imbalance, with one-third of the population white but 59 percent white police. Cook County around Chicago has 42 percent white residents but 55 percent white police.

Diversity of police forces in some counties with major protests

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Hennepin Co., Minn. (69%)

Police: 68% white

Philadelphia Co., Pa. (34% white)

Police: 59% white

Cook Co., Ill. (42%)

Police: 55% white

50%

District of Columbia (37%)

Police: 47% white

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47%)

Police: 39% white

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Diversity of police forces in some counties with major protests

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Hennepin Co., Minn. (69%)

Police: 68% white

Philadelphia Co., Pa. (34% white)

Police: 59% white

Cook Co., Ill. (42%)

Police: 55% white

50%

District of Columbia (37%)

Police: 47% white

New York Co., N.Y. (47%)

Police: 39% white

0

0

50%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Diversity of police forces in some counties with major protests

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

Share of

white police

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

75%

Philadelphia Co., Pa. (34% white)

Police: 59% white

Hennepin Co., Minn. (69%)

Police: 68% white

Cook Co., Ill. (42%)

Police: 55% white

50%

District of

Columbia (37%)

Police: 47% white

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47%)

Police: 39% white

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

Diversity of police forces in some counties with major protests

For selected counties with at least 100,000 people

100%

Larger share

of white officers

than population

75%

Philadelphia Co., Pa. (34% white)

Police: 59% white

Hennepin Co., Minn. (69%)

Police: 68% white

Cook Co., Ill. (42%)

Police: 55% white

Share of

white police

50%

District of

Columbia (37%)

Police: 47% white

New York Co.,

N.Y. (47%)

Police: 39% white

Smaller share

of white officers

than population

25%

0

0

25%

50%

75%

100%

Share of white population

Majority nonwhite counties

The Census Bureau estimates for each county do not reflect specific departments and are dependent on how many officers were included in the American Community Survey. The data is listed only for large departments for which the Census Bureau survey estimates are expected to be relatively accurate.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission surveys all governments to count jobs by sex and race, but the EEOC will not release data for individual agencies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has not yet released the latest Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey race data from 2016.

Police departments across the country have become less overwhelmingly white since the 1990s, according to a study published by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics last fall. The agency’s survey of police departments found that the share of white non-Hispanic police fell from 78.5 percent in 1997 to 71.5 percent in 2016.

The white share of the country’s population, however, fell over that time from 72 percent to 63 percent, so the change in police did not keep pace with demographic change.

White officers still overrepresent a shrinking white population

Share of officers by race from 1997 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics

White

Hispanic

Black

Share

of police

80%

60

Share of

population

40

20

0

1997

2016

1997

2016

1997

2016

White officers still overrepresent a shrinking white population

Share of officers by race from 1997 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics

White

Hispanic

Black

Share

of police

80%

Share of

population

60

40

20

0

1997

2016

1997

2016

1997

2016

White officers still overrepresent a shrinking white population

Share of officers by race from 1997 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics

White

Hispanic

Black

Share of police

80%

60

Share of population

40

20

0

1997

2016

1997

2016

1997

2016

White officers still overrepresent a shrinking white population

Share of officers by race from 1997 to 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics

White

Hispanic

Black

Share of police

80%

60

Share of population

40

20

0

1997

2016

1997

2016

1997

2016

The share of Hispanic police has grown relatively quickly, but, once again, not as fast as the Hispanic population. The latest survey found 12.5 percent of police are Hispanic. Nationally, Hispanics were 17.8 percent of the population, according to Census Bureau estimates.

The share of African American non-Hispanic police in the survey has held steady around 12 percent. The African American share of population has grown slightly from 12.3 percent to 13 percent.

Sources: Census Bureau American Community Survey Public Use Microdata 2018 via IPUMS USA. Census Bureau county population characteristics, 2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER bridged-race population. Bureau of Justice Statistics Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey. The accuracy of the Census Bureau estimate of the percent of police who are white depends on the number of officers in a county, ranging from plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for large places to 20 percentage points for the smallest shown with an average of 12 percentage points.