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Police Departments Short On Hispanic Officers

Racial gaps between police departments and who they serve are seen more in communities with large Hispanic populations, an analysis by The Associated Press has found.

The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, by an officer in a nearly all-white police department in Ferguson, Mo., refocused the country on the racial balance between police forces and the communities they protect.

In most cases now, underrepresented minority populations in police departments are found in places such as Anaheim, California, West Valley City, Utah, and Providence, Rhode Island, where there are large Hispanic populations, yet few Hispanic officers, the AP reported.

The 2012 police killings of two Latino men in Anaheim, where the police department is among the least racially balanced in the nation, set off weeks of angry protests. More than half the community is Hispanic; only 23 percent of the sworn police officers are.

"There's a huge gap between community and police," said Theresa Smith, a member of the Anaheim Community Coalition, which aims to improve police oversight. Police shot and killed Smith's son in 2009. "You can't bridge that gap if people don't trust you."

At least 49 police departments had a majority Hispanic population, yet more than half of the department was white, the AP reported.