Advantages in A Diversified Force
Recent national events have triggered a trend in administrative processes with respect to racial demographics and mismatches in department composition. The mainstream media displays an American society demonstrating, becoming divisive, and discussing ideas and perceptions on racial tension and community frustration with law enforcement. In many cities, these topics strain relationships in neighborhoods.
So what are the outcries telling us? The people do not feel represented by their government and think there are injustices with police officials. Let’s explore one parameter of this problem: lack of community representation.
Administrations are reviewing how diversity within a police organization should reflect a ratio comparative to their community demography. With the current social demands on police culture in the United States, law enforcement agencies are finding it advantageous to become more diverse in representing the community they serve. As agencies build on a progressive work model to include an internal structure to mirror their communities, they also expand the diversity meaning to include not just women and minority groups; but to encompass sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, specialized language skills, backgrounds, professional experience, and other demographic characteristics.
Bilingual officers are certainly an asset to an agency. Officers who speak a secondary language are valuable to a populace of another culture rather than just English speaking. For example, a city with a large Hispanic or Latino community might employ some Spanish speaking officers or train current officers to meet this language need. I found during my police career that learning some Spanish was very beneficial rather than struggling with a barrier of communication. Sure, I stumbled through some situations, but it was much easier to navigate with a basic understanding of important information gathering questions and knowing a small part of the language in order to have a dialogue.
What would be the advantageous commonalities between the police and the public developed by incorporating a more diverse department to serve the people? There are so many, but to name a few:
1. Communication gaps are bridged.
2. Disparity may be narrowed.
3. Empathy and relatability within cultural groups, background similarities, or ethnicities is gained to develop a positive relationship and dialogue path.
4. Effectiveness with regards to community-based policing increases.
5 Community partnerships are more easily formed.
6. Police fairness is perceived more favorably.
7. Increased public trust may be achieved.
8. Tension between the public and police may be diffused.
9. Law enforcement show an investment in their community.
10. Company buy-in and multicultural understanding within the agency adapts the police culture which demonstrates progressive change.
Progressive change is a good catalyst to achieve the above listed outcomes. This also builds alliance with the community. Cultural disparity in law enforcement tends to be a sensitive topic and often difficult to discuss, but it must be addressed. It is important to reflect your community through a diverse organizational makeup.
Immediate internal mechanisms and updated testing procedures are not always seen with timely results but are being discussed nationally and are being implemented. Police work is not easy and it is not for everyone. Consequently, police organizations must have candidates who pass all components of their rigorous testing and background clearance processes.
So are law enforcement agencies reluctant to change? The public may perceive it that way but I don’t think so. Hiring processes are stringent, time intensive, and thorough. Law enforcement must also keep mindful of equal employment opportunities and steer away from intentional discrimination. At the same time, it is difficult to screen applicants based solely upon diversity needs but to also include job qualifications and police effectiveness within a candidate. Nonetheless, this is entirely possible. Police organizations can implement hiring designs and procedures to draw applicants who are highly qualified and diverse.