NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— The Southern Poverty Law Center has been looking into just how few law enforcement leaders in our state are minorities and what that means for the communities they serve.

Delvin Davis, SPLC Action Fund Senior Policy Analyst and author of the study said, “We have 64 sheriffs, only 4 of them are black and only one identifies as a woman. So that’s 6% and a little less than 2% for sheriffs.”

Davis says those numbers are at the heart of a new study that aims to shed light on the lack of diversity in law enforcement leadership in Louisiana.

“That’s juxtaposed against 65% of the jails and 57% of the prisons identifying as black people.”

The state’s population of Black residents is over 30%, and while both the district attorney and sheriff in Orleans parish are Black, New Orleans is clearly an outlier.

Another local official bucking the statewide trend is St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre.

Tregre says that having officials that reflect the population means more than just the stats, “It’s great to have diversity because a lot of people look to see if you have officers that look like them or are familiar with their culture.”

Read the complete report here:

Out of Balance: Racial Disparity Among Louisiana’s Sheriffs and Prosecutors

Regardless of the race of leadership, Tregre stressed the importance of resident confidence in law enforcement, “That’s a constant battle is earning and maintaining the trust of the public.”

Pollster and sociologist Dr. Silas Lee cites a number of reasons for the disparity in Black leadership in law enforcement in the state, including demographics of specific communities and gerrymandering.

“That might be one of the factors but a bigger factor could be turnout, the power of incumbency, resources,” said Lee.

Davis said addressing the disparities starts with voting and must happen on a local level, “We have to look at the strength of the ballot box, and the community has to really demand something different if they expect something better.”

Stay updated with the latest news, weather, and sports by downloading the WGNO app on the Apple or Google Play store and subscribing to the WGNO newsletter.