As people around the city celebrate Asian-American heritage month, so are members of the police department. The number of Asian-American police officers has drastically increased since the beginning of this century. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Officer James Li says it has always been his dream to wear a police uniform.
"Since I was like five years old, I always wanted to become a cop, and I did it, became a cop," Li says. "That's what I wanted to do, and I still want to do it."
Li is part of a wave of Asian-Americans, from those of Chinese heritage to police of Pakistani descent, adding diversity to the NYPD. Statistics show the number of Asian-Americans on the force has more than tripled in 15 years, from 629 in the year 2000, when they were just 1.6 percent of the force, to nearly 2,100 today.
Their pride was on full display during an Asian-American heritage celebration this month at police headquarters.
"We represent the police department because we're a part of the community," said Sergeant James Ng of the NYPD. "A lot of the Asians like myself, we grew up in New York City."
"Well, being that New York is such a diverse city, I mean, you need all types of cultures and officers on this job," said Sergeant Allan Yip of the NYPD.
In the current police academy class graduating in July, the number of Asian-Americans just about equals that of African-Americans.
Asian men are driving the increase. The class of nearly 900 has 86 Asian men, compared to 61 black men. But there are only six Asian-American women. Police brass are trying to figure out ways to recruit more of them to wear a uniform.
"That population group, that's one where we would like to increase the numbers over and above what we have," said Police Commissioner William Bratton. "We have had a better track record recruiting women from other groups, whether it's African-American, Latino or Caucasian."
Those on the job already say it's important to have ethnic and gender diversity.
"We are all the same," said Officer Jamie Pak. "We get trained the same way. We get tested the same way."
But because the city is not all the same, the NYPD is trying to find ways to boost diversity in its ranks.