It's human nature generally to feel more comfortable with and relate better to others who have a similar cultural background and set of experiences.
That's why it's important for public officials to reflect the population they serve. While it's true that many an old teacher relates well to young students, that men have been successful coaching girls sports teams and that some white police officers are well respected in the black community, it can be distressing to a group of people if few of the public servants they come in contact with are not, in a cultural sense, one of them.
It can lead to a feeling that the public officials, as a group, are not totally in touch with the needs of the minority. The assumption, right or wrong, can also develop that local government is not exercising sound hiring practices, and instead giving jobs to just one segment — usually the majority — of the population.
That's why it's important for all public institutions to make a concerted effort to find and attract minority candidates whenever jobs open up.
The hiring practices of the Anderson Police Department were recently called into question during a meeting of the Anderson Board of Public Safety, where the hiring of six new APD officers was approved.
Safety board member Bill Watson expressed concern, pointing out that five minority officers would be retiring and that only two minorities were being hired.
APD Chief Larry Crenshaw noted that the Anderson police force is representative of the city's minority population of 15.2 percent. The city has done well in attracting and hiring minority officers, Crenshaw said, compared to some other Hoosier cities of similar size. In Muncie, Marion, Kokomo and Terre Haute, the percentage of minorities on the police force lags well behind the minority population, according to Crenshaw.