Rachel L. Swarns, THE NEW YORK TIMES
NEW YORK (The New York Times) — The lanky black detective strode to the front of the school auditorium, grabbed the microphone and turned to face the crowd. He had a feel for the room, for the mistrust and doubt in many hearts, and a strategy to win them over.
But would his pitch work?
In his 14 years as a New York City police officer, Detective Yuseff Hamm has stalked drug dealers, chased gunmen and talked two men out of jumping off buildings.
But as he stood last Tuesday before a predominantly black audience at a community meeting in Rosedale, Queens, he faced a challenge that some might argue was nearly as daunting: Trying to persuade African-Americans to join the city’s Police Department in the Eric Garner era.
About a quarter of the city’s population is black and yet, Detective Hamm told the crowd, “in the Police Department, it’s only 16 percent.”
“That’s a problem,” he continued. “Do you not agree?”
“Yes!” several people called out in unison.
“So what are we doing about it?” asked Detective Hamm, who is president of the Guardians Association, the fraternal organization that represents black police officers in New York City. “I’m asking you to partner with us.”