The need for diverse police forces has become a critical agenda in the social status quo of this decade. People want to see law enforcement that both represents the racial/ethnic, gender, and other identifiers (religion, LGBTQ+) of their community as well as a force that understands the struggles of the locals and can apply justice fairly and without prejudice. In order to achieve such changes, there is a need for diverse hiring policy to be developed and implemented at the departmental and precinct levels.
Background and Need for Policy
In the events of police misconduct and charges brought about from the death of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others in recent years have greatly exacerbated tension between communities (particularly of color) and law enforcement. It has highlighted two key facts that 1) racial biases exist within the police as an institution and 2) police forces severely lack diversity. The concept of racial bias among police has existed in society for decades. Some of it stems from bad policy such as ‘broken windows policing’ or ‘stop and frisk’ that unjustly targeted racial minorities, especially African Americans. Other factors include poor diversity training, a racist culture, and internal pressures. Meanwhile, the lack of diversity can be seen through statistics, as approximately 67% of police officers are white and 85% male, while only 12.4% are Black and 15% are female (DataUSA, 2019). This often results in discrepancies in communities, such as Dayton, Ohio having a 43% Black population with a 6% Black police force. Similarly in Buffalo, NY which is 37% Black, but only has 5% of African Americans on the force (Kelly, 2015).
A major issue is not just the current makeup of the police force, but significant challenges to hire a diverse workforce going forward, in both positions of frontline officers and leadership. Literature indicates that minorities are underrepresented in law enforcement because of institutional barriers and personal/cultural preferences. There is evidence of police departments, both formally and informally dissuading minorities from seeking employment. There are official barriers such as complex applications and background checks, multi-staged selection, and leadership attitudes (Vermeer et al., 2020). While those minorities or women that are hired face harassment and intentional hazing, along with additional pressures, causing many to leave the force. Personal and cultural preferences to not join the force are due to negative perception of police as a tool of institutional harassment of minorities and a belief (justified or not) that minorities are not welcome.
The stated problem: In the current criminal justice system there are both internal and external barriers which limit the ability of police leaders to diversify the force and hire minorities, leading to a significant discrepancy and social tension between law enforcement and local communities. New diversity hiring policy is necessary to address these barriers and bring about change needed within the police department to promote long-term social sustainability.
Policy Overview and Components
The proposed diversity hiring policy will focus on a three-pronged approach of attracting, recruiting, and retaining minority and female candidates with changes to the hiring process as well as the focus of the recruitment campaign.
Attracting diverse candidates
- Improve perception of police in communities – lean heavily into community policing and cooperation.
- Present the force in a light of inclusivity and diversity, promote minorities to leadership positions, lead a public campaign on diversity.
- Actively seek minorities at career fairs and professional development in traditionally non-white neighborhoods and educational institutions – targeted marketing and outreach.
- Set different standards for physical exam for females, lower largely irrelevant entry standards such as a specific high school GPA.
- Reduce emphasis on factors such as the written test and focus on evaluating social skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy.
- Designing a user-centric and streamlined application process.
- Offering potential candidates coaching and mentorship to pass entry exams.
- Providing visibility and transparency throughout the hiring process to ensure accountability (Griffin et al., 2020).
- New staffing models to allow candidates to pursue specialties fit best for them.
- Eliminating hazing culture along with racism or machismo attitudes within the precinct.
- Offering mentorship models with younger officers being guided by more experienced colleagues.
- Greater emphasis on training and preparation of officers to ensure adequate response to high-stress situations (Nowacki et al., 2021).
- Conducting exit interviews to identify common causes of leaving the force and responding accordingly.
As can be seen the policy proposal is multifaceted and comprehensive. However, the implementation of these concepts and standards is realistic and does not require tremendous investment. For the most part, it requires a restructuring of the hiring process and making improvements within the respective department to achieve greater accountability and accessibility.
Justification for Policy
The discrepancy of race and gender in the police force itself is not an indicator of bad policing, but hinders building relations and trust with local communities, and in cases of high-profile incidents, results in increased scrutiny of race as a factor. However, literature and national guidelines indicate that promoting and having diversity within the force, with subsequently closer police-community ties, can help to prevent such incidents from occurring. There are multiple benefits to maintaining a diverse police force. For example, having more women leads to a reduction of excessive force cases and better implementation of community policing strategies and response to other vital issues such as domestic violence. Meanwhile, greater diversity of minority allows for more effective service outreach to minority populations, better reputational perceptions, and healthier internal culture (Knox & Mummolo, 2020). Developing policy aimed at increasing diversity hires will contribute to the betterment of the force and expansion of its social environment without decreasing its standards or qualifications, potentially even enhancing them.
DataUSA. (2019). Police officers. Web.
Griffin, K., Bennett, J., & York, T. (2020). Leveraging promising practices: Improving the recruitment, hiring, and retention of diverse & inclusive faculty. Web.
Kelly, J. (2015). Police diversity lags in many cities. USA Today. Web.
Knox, D., & Mummolo, J. (2020). Making inferences about racial disparities in police violence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(3), 1261–1262. Web.
Nowacki, J., Schafer, J. A., & Hibdon, J. (2020). Workforce diversity in police hiring: The influence of organizational characteristics. Justice Evaluation Journal, 4(1), 1–20. Web.
Vermeer, S.-J., Stickle, B., Frame, M., & Hein, M. (2020). Reasons and barriers for choosing police careers. Policing: An International Journal, 43(5), 817–830. Web.