SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — While city officials have said they’d welcome more diversity on the Sioux Falls Police Department, diversity seems hard to find.
Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns said, “There are many challenges in retaining officers in the Law Enforcement profession. This is a difficult career that is not for the weary. As a department, we have reviewed and changed our minimum qualifications to open up our applicant pool to more individuals.”
Since Jan. 1, 2017, the department has hired 81 officers and 17 of them self-identified as a minority, Burns said. As of June 23, 56 of them are still employed with the city including nine of them who self-identified as a minority, Burns said.
Those nine are among the 23 officers on the department who self-identify as minority, according to data provided by the city’s human resources department.
The department only knows if an officer identifies as a minority if that officer self-identifies as a minority, Burns said.
“Applicants have the opportunity to disclose their race or ethnicity on our employment application on a voluntary basis,” Burns said. “This information is collected on the back-end of our system, not viewable by our hiring team.”
Most of the police officers in Sioux Falls are white men over 35, based on information from human resources.
138 officers of the department’s 255 officers are 36 and older. 117 are 21-to-35.
Age break down of police officers
|Age in years||Number of officers|
The percentage of the minority staff on the police force is lower than percentage of minorities living in Sioux Falls, according to 2019 population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The city’s estimated population in 2019 was 183,793. The population was 84.5% white and 81.2% white alone, not Hispanic or Latino.
Only 9.01% of the police officers self-identified as a minority.
Six percent of the city’s population was Black or African American. One police officer on the staff has self-identified as Black or African American. That one officer is .39% of the police force.
Eight officers self-identified as Hispanic or Latino. That is 3.1% of the police force. In 2019, 5.3% of the city’s population were identified as Hispanic or Latino.
The city has one officer who self-identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, which is .39%. In 2019, none of the city’s population was Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
The department has no officers who self-identified as American Indian or Alaska Native. In 2019, 2.4% of the population was American Indian or Alaska Native.
Sioux Falls has five officers who self-identified as Asian. The city’s population was 2.5% Asian in 2019. Five officers is 1.9% of the department.
Eight officers self-identified as two or more races. Three percent identified as two more races in Sioux Falls in 2019. Eight officers is 3.1% of the department.
The Sioux Falls Police Force has 28 female officers and 227 male officers.
The population was 50.2% female in 2019 estimates. Twenty-eight female officers is 10.9% of the police force.
Burns said the department’s community resource officers work with different community leaders and “we established a community ambassador program to work directly with different diverse communities within Sioux Falls.”
When he was asked by KELOLAND News what programs or plans are in place to try and recruit more diversity to the force, Burns said the city established an internship program called ASCEND “that is geared toward recruiting all individuals who may have an interest in public service.”
The program has been delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Burns said. The program is designed to provide participants an opportunity to experience a possible career, he said.
Part of advertising for open positions includes providing job notices to organizations that serve minority communities, Burns said.
The city receives applications for police officers year round, Burns said.
“Interested individuals can apply anytime. On average, we received around 380 applications a year for police officer,” Burns said.
The city posts full-time openings on local and national job boards and provides job notices to numerous colleges and universities.
Open positions are also posted on the city website and social media. Burns said most applicants learn about openings through the website.
The department also has several officers who speak more than one language.
Burns said six officers speak Spanish and three officers speak German and one officer speaks Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and German.
According to the Census Bureau, 10.2% of the Sioux Falls population’s household speak a language other than English at home for persons five and older.