By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University
Law enforcement is of course an honorable profession. There are now nationwide talks, however, on how law enforcement can be reformed to best meet the needs of the communities the police serve.
One of the most important initiatives to ensure that law enforcement is fully capable of serving the community is by insisting on diversity within the department. Diversity is important because it strengthens the department by bringing together officers of different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences.
Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Is Essential to Good Policing
Diversity in law enforcement is essential to good policing among both line officers and the management structure because it improves problem solving and utilizes different perspectives to meet the daily demands in the field. Also, diversity within a police agency displays a commitment to equal treatment of the law within the community.
Police officers are highly visible to the public. Therefore, when a community sees a fully diverse police force, its trust is likely to increase because it’s evident that the local police are taking steps to recruit candidates who understand the many needs of the community.
Police agencies that are most successful when they have the support of the community they serve on a daily basis.
Strategies for Improving Diversity in Policing
Diversity can be accomplished through proactive and intentional recruitment. Strategies to improve diversity in policing include:
- Developing a department culture that recognizes the value of diversity. This can be accomplished through diversity training during annual block training cycles.
- Targeting community outreach programs that intentionally encourage citizens of various backgrounds and ethnicities to consider a police career.
- Working with local colleges and educational institutions to develop partnerships and pipeline programs that help reach potential applicants. Partnerships with these institutions should help to address and overcome historically negative perceptions of the police especially in minority communities.
- Providing police internships that give citizens who are considering a career in law enforcement the chance to participate in a police road-patrol briefing and ride along to gain deeper insight into the daily responsibilities of a police officer.
- Increasing the use of social media platforms to recruit and communicate with the diverse community. Police agencies can display on social media the strategies they are using to promote internal diversity and increase community trust.
- Offering bonuses or financial incentives for officers who are bilingual. In addition, publishing recruiting material in multiple languages that reflect the community populations.
- Encouraging community members to get involved in the hiring process to increase recruitment and give citizens the opportunity to become stakeholders in the police hiring process.
A bill was recently approved in Philadelphia that requires new city police officers to have lived in the city for at least one year prior to being hired. The bill was championed by city council president Darrell Clarke, who explained that the legislation was “aimed at making the Philadelphia Police Department more diverse.”
Miami-Dade County, Florida, has initiated a countywide program called “Diversity Matters,” which is designed to support diversity and workplace fairness. In its hiring practices, Miami-Dade seeks employees who can respond properly to its multicultural population. The plan calls for hiring employees, including for the police force, with diverse skills, talents, and perspectives.
As we’ve seen, diversity in hiring is one of the most effective ways to strengthen policing and to display to the community the force’s commitment to serve its unique needs with a diverse workforce that understands the unique challenges of the community. Developing a workforce of officers who reside in the community they patrol can foster community trust and better protect their community.
About the Author: Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Military University. In addition to twenty-two years of law enforcement experience, he has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Most recently, he presented at the International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction, and intelligence gathering.