People Of Color In Law Enforcement
Published on February 06, 2023
It's no secret: People of Color (POC) are underrepresented in law enforcement. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, racial minorities comprise just 22 percent of full-time, sworn officers across the nation's sheriff departments. While POC comprise nearly 58 percent of full-time, sworn officers at the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD), we continue to work toward change and greater diversification. To #BeTheChange we seek, we celebrate employee groups who are working toward the same goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
February is Black History Month and we're calling out the Black Sheriff's Protective Association (BSPA) as playing an integral part in creating the change we need in law enforcement. As stated in the group's historical record, amid the civil rights movement of the 1960s and a general mistrust of law enforcement within our communities, a group of Denver Sheriff Deputies recognized a need for action. Established in 1976, the BSPA aimed to encourage and aid in the enlistment of African Americans in law enforcement, strike out racial degradation, and improve the relationship between the DSD and the community. Past BSPA President, Deputy Micheal Blaine, finds the organization's initial mission to be even more relevant 64 years after its formation: “With the pandemic, social injustice, and racial inequality...more than ever, young black males, females, minorities, and people in general are shying away from the law enforcement profession...to this day, we continue to fight for equality like they do in the community.” Hosea Canon Jr – current BSPA Sergeant-at-Arms and a 32-year DSD veteran – agrees, “In light of the racial climate that we are in today, we must still fight for racial equality, not only in the Denver Sheriff Department, but in our communities."
BSPA members walking in the 2022 Juneteenth parade. Photo credit: BSPA Facebook page.
Pride, unity, and strength – the core values of the BSPA – are depicted in the group's charter as participating in community issues and volunteering time for public safety. Collaborating with various agencies throughout past years, the BSPA has organized service projects, including a PBS Channel 6 telethon, a "Toasty-Toes Sock Drive" for those experiencing homelessness, the annual Thanksgiving "Feed-a-Family" Drive providing thousands of families with food, and the "Adopt-A-Class Christmas Drive" supplying gifts to schools during the holidays. A previous member recalls the BSPA as one of the first law enforcement employee groups to openly participate in PrideFest. Through an unfailing commitment to the community, the BSPA has maintained a constant presence in the annual Martin Luther King Jr Marade, the Juneteenth Parade, and the Denver Pride Parade. The BSPA-coordinated diversion and tour program at the Denver County Jail is one of the group's proudest accomplishments "with the help of so many officers that made it a great success," says Deputy Darrell Jordan (BSPA president, 2010-2012). The BSPA conducted tours at the jail for various organizations including colleges, high schools, and recreation centers and also welcomed in concerned parents of juveniles. Deputy Jordan recognized this program as life-changing for the many residents who participated.
BSPA members pass out food to residents while working an assembly line to fill boxes during the 2022 Feed-a-Family event. Photo Credit: BSPA Facebook page.
Elias Diggins, now serving as the Denver Sheriff, served as BSPA president from 1998-2000 while working as a deputy. He recognized how this organization affects everyone throughout the community, “The work that launched the BSPA paved the way for removing barriers – not just for African American deputies to excel," Diggins explains, "it also did so for anyone who wanted to take advantage of the great opportunities our amazing organization has to offer. We must continue to keep our eye on equity and equality for all.” These opportunities may also be seen in fundraising efforts. With the support that comes from its membership, academic scholarships are awarded each year to graduating high school students to assist with upcoming college fees. In 2020, three students were awarded $2,500 each.
Two BSPA 2022 scholarship recipients pose with members of the group. Photo credit: BSPA Facebook page.
BSPA board members are elected every two years, which means the office of president changes hands fairly often. A previously appointed president, the late Sergeant Tanya Dobbins, wrote in a BSPA president’s note of the ongoing series of police brutality protests that recently swept the nation, “Only we can change the narrative as to how we collectively see ourselves and as to how our community sees us…Allow me to be clear, there will be challenges both internally and externally, remember we are worth it. We owe this to ourselves, the community we serve, and the people we safeguard.” The BSPA invites DSD uniformed and professional staff from all backgrounds to join, to continue the group's legacy, and bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.