I had mixed feelings when I read this article describing how US Police Departments have challenges recruiting Asian Americans. I liked how it pointed out how the lack of cultural understanding about Asian Americans has serious consequences (in San Jose, police shot a mentally ill woman for wielding what turned out to be not a meat cleaver but a Vietnamese vegetable peeler). I also thought that pointing out the converse lack of understanding about police functions from Asian Americans was insightful. Still, a few things bothered me about it.
The article talked about not getting enough Asian American police, but seeing an Asian American cop is not unusual for me. Maybe it’s a West Coast thing or just where I live. My junior prom date became a cop (I try to make sure I don’t commit any crimes in Fremont). The article talked about how Asian Americans are influenced by TV shows to think that police jobs are extremely dangerous. This has some basis in truth as I have met one Asian American cop who was shot on the job.
I also thought that the article should have mentioned the long and storied history of Asian American police. Charlie Chan was based on Chang Apana, a bullwhip carrying cop who was famous for cleaning up Honolulu’s Chinatown and while armed only with his bullwhip, arresting a 40 gamblers at one time by himself. San Francisco has had two Asian American police chiefs, Fred Lau and Heather Fong. When a friend of mine was murdered, the Asian American detective heading up the case won an award for clever work in finding his killers. Roy Choe (pictured above) was recently named officer of the year in Fairfax Virginia.
The article concludes with a discussion of how Asian American police are trying to recruit others Asian Americans to join. How can Asian American’s be recruited as police? Roy Choe says:
“You recruit through the service you provide and the image you develop from providing that service. You recruit by example. Eventually you’ll have second and third generation families tell their children it’s okay to work there. “
(Photo: VOA – M Hilburn)