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State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker. — Governor Tom Wolf Flickr Photo

For years, Pennsylvania State Police officials repeatedly grappled with the headlines about the makeup of its recruit classes, which often excluded any significant representation of minorities and women.

After a 2015 cadet class graduation, one television news station reported a story about the new recruits with the reporter leading the segment by proclaiming that, the “Pennsylvania State Police [is] in a rut on diversity efforts.”

Most recently, a December 2016 report concluded the state police were still seeking women and minorities; and, two months ago, the department reportedly eliminated lie-detector tests as part of its requirements in the hopes of drawing a more diverse candidate base.

Today, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) appears to be making progress toward its diversity goals.

“The Pennsylvania State Police has made it a priority to increase trooper diversity to better reflect all Pennsylvania communities, and over the last year, the state police have increased the number of full-time recruitment coordinators and now has one full-time recruiter in each of the troops across the commonwealth,” State Police Spokesman Adam Reed said Friday.

The recruiters for the state police have actively sought the most qualified individuals from around Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions, an effort that’s already proven successful, Reed said, noting that those efforts have resulted in the processing of 7,200 applicants during the last application period.

On March 5, the 149th cadet class began training with 22 percent of the new recruits either being minorities, women or both, Reed said.

The efforts have not gone unnoticed.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-195, said she’s pleased to learn that the new recruitment class has resulted in an increase in women and minorities.

“There’s so many opportunities to work in state government and … that work should reflect the people of the commonwealth. Some agencies do well while others have a lot of work to do,” Bullock said.

“One promising story is that of the new recruitment class of the state police which I understand has gone from a previous class low of 6 percent minorities to about 13 percent minorities and about 10 percent women,” she said.

When Tyree Blocker took over as commissioner in 2015, he and Gov. Tom Wolf maintained that a top priority would be for the state police to overcome decades-old recruitment problems that’s led to a trooper rank comprised of just 6 percent nonwhite employees on the approximately 4,700-member force.

“One of my top-tier goals is to make Pennsylvania government, the people who work in that government, look like the people we’re serving,” Wolf said.

Blocker, an African American from Philadelphia, concurred with the governor in his own statement.

“We are dedicated to having a force that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve,” he said. “We must hire the individuals who have a genuine interest in providing quality service through leadership to the people of the commonwealth.”

In January, Blocker ordered the elimination of lie-detector tests given to recruits because police officials said the testing slowed the hiring process and caused the agency to lose qualified individuals to other jobs.

Further, the tests reportedly also created unnecessary hurdles that deter qualified applicants, including minorities and slowed Blocker and Wolf’s efforts to make the agency more reflective of the state’s population.

The most recent Census in 2016 estimated that Pennsylvania has 12.7 million residents, with African Americans making up 11.7 percent while women comprise 51.1 percent of the population.

To that end, Reed said the PSP will remain focused on Blocker and the governor’s promise to do all they can in helping to make the department reflect the growing diversity of residents around the state.

“The state police and our recruitment coordinators will continue to focus on improving diversity and working with community partners,” he said.

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