City Hall

A Police Force that Looks Like Kent Would Be More Diverse than One that "Looks Like Seattle"

By Erica C. Barnett February 24, 2011

In his state of the city speech Monday, Mayor Mike McGinn bemoaned the fact that just 18 percent of Seattle's police force lives within city limits. (Cops concentrate in suburbs like Bothell, Kent, and Renton, according to data compiled by Jonah at

"It's hard to have a good local police force if the police aren't local," McGinn said. "State law prevents us from requiring officers to live in this city. But we have over 300 officers who are eligible for retirement. That gives us an opportunity to recruit officers from the community and who understand our community and its values. ... We want a police force that looks like Seattle."

As I noted yesterday, Seattle is actually whiter and less diverse than many of the Seattle suburbs where the city's police officers actually live. That's important in the context of McGinn's commitment to racial and social justice, and the city's efforts to heal the wounds caused by numerous racially charged incidents involving white SPD officers over the past several months. If he's looking for more diversity on the force, McGinn might do better to look to the suburbs around the city than the city itself.

Today, the US Census Bureau released the first batch of data from the 2010 Census. I went through the stats on race---focusing on cities that are at least partly in King County, to keep things manageable---and found a number of suburbs that are substantially more diverse, in terms of their black, Hispanic, and Native American populations (three groups that have felt marginalized and unjustly targeted by Seattle police). Seattle's population, as of 2010, was 69.5 percent white, 7.9 percent African American, 0.8 percent Native, and 6.6 percent Hispanic.

Here's are just a few suburbs that offer more of the diversity McGinn says he wants than Seattle.

Boulevard Park: Technically part of Tukwila, the Boulevard Park area southwest of Seattle is 46.4 percent white, 15.8 percent black, 2.1 percent Native, and 26.3 percent Hispanic.

Skyway/Bryn Mawr: Skyway, just south of Rainier Beach and outside Seattle city limits, is 29.6 percent white,
31.4 percent black, 0.8 percent Native, and 7.7 percent Hispanic.

Federal Way: This suburb south of SeaTac is 57.5 percent white, 9.7 percent black, 0.9 percent Native, and 16.2 percent Hispanic.

Kent: Slightly northeast of Federal Way, this suburb is 55.5 percent white, 11.3 percent black, 1.9 percent Native, and 16.6 percent Hispanic.

Renton: This close-in suburb is 54.6 percent white, 10.6 percent black, 0.8 percent Native, and 13.1 percent Hispanic.

Tukwila: South of Renton, Tukwila is 43.9 percent white, 17.9 percent black, 1.1 percent Native, and 17.5 percent Hispanic.

If you're curious, one city in King County reported no black people: Beaux Arts Village, on the eastern edge of Bellevue. Beaux Arts, an all-residential area that boasts tall trees, sailboat races, and a private beach, has an estimated median household income of $107,000.
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