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Koster To Hold Workshops To Encourage More Minorities In Law Enforcement

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, center, with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, right, at area high school during height of unrest in Ferguson.
Missouri Attorney General's Office | File photo

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster plans to host a two-day public workshop this fall – in St. Louis and Kansas City – to probe ways to improve the minority makeup in both region’s law-enforcement agencies.

Koster’s announcement came over the weekend, amidnewspaper articles in both cities that detailed how many suburban municipalities with majority minority populations have police departments that remain overwhelmingly white.

In Ferguson, which has be embroiled in unrest for weeks, the police department has only three minority officers – making up 7 percent of the force – while the city’s population is close to 70 percent minority.

Koster said he plans to “invite police chiefs, school administrators, students, community and neighborhood leaders, guidance counselors, and others, to offer input on the best ways to encourage greater minority participation in urban law enforcement careers.”

Koster said the two workshops will be held Oct. 1 in St. Louis and Oct. 2 in Kansas City. The locations and other details are still being worked out.

“We are all searching for ways to increase respect and communication between law enforcement and the communities they protect," said Koster, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2016. "One way to achieve this is for police agencies to more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve."  

He suggested that one way would be for law-enforcement agencies to “reach out to young people by the tenth and eleventh grades.  It is important to learn what challenges they face, show them role models in law enforcement, and open their eyes to how their participation in policing can benefit their own lives and the communities in which they live.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.