A diverse force makes for a stronger force
Friday, October 20, 2017
It is no secret that we live in troubled times. Racism, white nationalism, minority harassment and women’s rights issues make daily headlines.
At the same time, maintaining law and order is a challenge. Hate speech and mistreatment accusations are battering the police force. The need of the hour is to rebuild the trust and faith of the people they have sworn to protect and serve.
A specific focus is on building a diverse force and strong community connections. Police departments like South Bend, Indiana, are building diversity through their minority recruiting agenda.
Years of strained relationships with communities of color is not going to make this an easy expedition. It is hard to forget the shooting deaths of African-Americans, racial profiling, rising white nationalist behavior and police brutality. No one state or region is immune to these issues, though some have worse statistics to show.
Departments with a vast majority of white officers do not mirror most communities well. There is a need to rebuild the force or add to it so that it better matches the demographics of the cities they serve.
However, community relations are a minefield and recruiting from within minority populations will be no cakewalk. However, one has to give kudos to where its due and the idea of minority recruiting is a good one.
While it is not easy, it is not impossible either. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has made incredible strides in this regard. They realized that their recruitment policies need modernization to serve a city that is 60 percent African-American.
Their efforts have been successful, and in the past years, the percentage of African-American officers has gone up from 37 to 50 percent. Their new goal is to increase the number of Hispanic officers in the force.
NOPD’s modus operandi is campus recruitment. The New York Police Department did the same, and also focused on transportation hubs like bus stops and subway stations to reach out to minority applicants.
Experts agree that this is a great move, but it will have to be a long-term effort. Some are concerned with strapped budgets and how they will be allocated to pay for the new officers who get on board.
NOPD has proven to counterparts across the country how such efforts can create a better relationship with the community. A survey shows that public satisfaction has seen a 16-point jump to a "historic" 64 percent.
When people in the community can identify with the officers, then their trust in officers will increase, too. As recruitment initiatives succeed, diversity in police forces will help protect their communities to a greater degree.
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