As the number of Asian immigrants swell in many U.S. cities, police departments are struggling to recruit the Asian-American officers needed to adequately serve their communities.
“If you look around metropolitan areas, there are not many Asian officers compared to the Asian population,” said Fairfax Country Police Department Detective Lam Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who also serves on the Asian-American Law Enforcement Association (AALEA), which promotes better relations between the police and the community.
Nguyen said this widespread problem is making it harder for police to build the trust and communication needed to be effective with the people they serve.
Fairfax County, Virginia, home to quickly growing Korean-American and Vietnamese-American communities, illustrates the national picture.
John Kapinos, a strategic planner in the county police department’s Office of Research and Support, said recruiting Asian-Americans is vital to the department’s legitimacy.
And Fairfax County’s police department, one of the most selective in the U.S., does not.
According to police officials, only three percent of the sworn officers identify themselves as “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The latest census places the county’s Asian population at 17.6 percent and growing.