Identifying barriers to diversity in law enforcement agencies
aPolice Department, Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island, USA; bDepartment of Management, Bryant University, Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA; cSchool of Continuing Studies, Roger Williams University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 17 February 2015 Revised 20 February 2016 Accepted 27 April 2016
ABSTRACT Despite numerous reasons that have been hypothesized, recruitment of African Americans and other ethnic minorities would seem to have much to do with the methodologies and marketing practices used in recruiting campaigns. This study seeks to determine the levels of minority representation within the law enforcement community in the State of Rhode Island, sufficiency of community outreach, marketing practices used during recruiting, and identify a methodology to enhance community cooperation and involvement in recruiting. Findings indicate low levels of informational distribution to, and contact with, core constituencies in communities of color, low presence of supervisory personnel among officers of color, low levels of minority officer hires, and issues related to the selection process for police officers. Suggested practices for enhancing community outreach are discussed.
KEYWORDS Minority recruitment; RI police agencies; African American police officers; community policing; recruiting marketing strategies; organizational culture; diversity
It has been said that the representation of minorities in political office and their pres- ence in police positions of leadership are among the most influential predictors of line officer diversity (Gustafson, 2013; Lewis, 1989; Schroedel, Frisch, Hallamore, Peter- son, & Vanderhorst, 1996). Yet, where this presence is either lacking in substance or nonexistent, these predictors may be difficult or even impossible to quantify.
For years, police departments had been able to fill vacancies with relative ease. However, during the economic development of the mid-2000s, it was found to be dif- ficult to recruit sufficient numbers of qualified staff, this having a negative impact on departmental operations (Orrick, 2014). While it may be an understatement, police agencies across the United States have attempted to make their outward appearance more indicative of the communities they represent. Using a myriad of marketing strategies, these agencies have tried to change both their face and culture in an effort to gain greater levels of minority community support for a profession that has not always been viewed as institutionally favorable towards them.