My topic for this assignment is diversity in law enforcement. This is a narrative that has been spoke of more and more over recent years as the relationship between the public and the police has become strained. While I do agree with diversity being important, I don’t agree that it is to be based on skin color or gender alone because as we have learned diversity is much more than a hair color or background but essentially the entire make up of an individual. In the end the person who best fits the job should be given the opportunity to serve as a police officer not just anyone who helps government officials check a box to appear more inclusive. After all, not trusting a person based on their skin color or culture no matter what it may be is essentially racist and should not be tolerated.
Starting with the minority group of women we look back at the history of policing we see that women were first introduced to policing in the early 19th century as a mean to work with women and children and guard women prisoners (Maryville University, 2021). This proved to be effective due to their nurturing nature and has even proven to be effective in reducing certain crimes and aiding in the reporting of other crimes which are less likely to be reported to male officers. For example, with female officers on duty victims are more willing to report violent crimes, the nonfatal domestic abuse rate is reduced. The trust and overall relationship with the community is improved and the use of excessive force is less likely. Even with all these positive factors only 12% of law enforcement are women and 3% as Chiefs of police (Maryville University, 2021). Minorities such as African American officers were hired as early as 1871 in Chicago when they hired their first officer James L. Shelton followed by the first African American female officer in 1918 (Emma,2020). African Americans continued to climb up the ranks and most recently Barbra West attained the rank of Deputy Superintendent in 2020 after working her way up during her 26 year career (Emma, 2020). These officers were influential in reaching out with the community and interacting with them positively thought their careers because they came from the area and cared about the success of their neighborhoods.
The humanities have played a role in increasing the diversity in policing by such shows as “Get Christy Love” which had influenced Barbra West to get into law enforcement and rise through the ranks (Emma, 2020). Without a show like this it would have made it less likely that a black woman would go into a law enforcement career which was dominated by white men at the time it aired. Thanks to this the film industry it impacted this woman who in turn impacted the law enforcement field by breaking barriers and showing how successful she could be as a police officer. Through the humanities lens we also see how black officers on the same assignment in the same neighborhood as white officers were less likely to stop, arrest and use force against civilians (Associated Press, 2020). When looking at 100 shifts we see how black officers made 16 fewer stops and 2 less arrests resulting in a 20 – 30% reduction compared to white officer (Associated Press, 2020). These figures show how officers treated offences differently essentially some officers used more personal discretion while others did not within the same community.
The natural sciences play a role in police diversity as recruits are selected based on their physical status. This includes such things as height and weight ratio, for example a person who is 5 feet 7 inches tall must weigh at least 140 pounds but no more than 180 pounds (Evans, 2018). Other physical traits will play a role as disqualifying factors as well such as musculoskeletal problems, heart or lung issues, coordination, skin issues and hernia or rectal issues (Evans, 2018). These issues will keep an officer from performing his or her duties effectively or cause a liability to the department, so these candidates are not likely to be chosen. Agencies also have different physical standards for men and women based on their biological make up. This causes an issue because it implies that women can not do the job unless the standards are lowered for them and this fuels resentment (Van Brocklin, 2013).
The social sciences shows’ us how women play a role in having a better relationship with the community and results in more crimes being reported. Women officers benefit a department because they are less likely to use excessive force, they are more skilled at addressing violence against women and sex crimes and they improve police and community relations (Fritsvold, 2021). When a task force established to address 21st century policing was established in 2016 it found the benefits of a diverse law enforcement agency. This level of diversity included not only race and gender but also other characteristics such as religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language ability, background and experience (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2016). This task force found that this proved to be critical in building trust with the communities and found that it was bolstered by decades of research that confirmed when the public believes that their law enforcement organizations represent them, understand them and responds to them they are perceived as fair, legitimate and accountable which deepens the trust in law enforcement (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2016). This not only makes an atmosphere where victims and witnesses feel comfortable in going to the police with information but also creates a safer work environment for the police.
Associated Press. (2021). Diversity in law enforcement may improve policing, study shows. NBC News. Web.
Emma. (2020). Minority police officers: Diversity & inclusion on the Illinois police force. Illinois Fraternal Order of Police. Web.
Evans, M. (2018). Physical qualifications to be a police officer. Career Trend. Web.
Fritsvold, E. (2021). We need more women working in law enforcement. Here’s why. University of San Diego. Web.
Maryville University. (2021). Women in law enforcement: History, accomplishments, and demand. Maryville Online. Web.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2016). Advancing diversity in law enforcement. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Web.
Van Brocklin, V. (2013). Physical fitness double standards for male and female cops? Police1. Web.