women in law enforcement

Transforming the Role of Diversity in Law Enforcement Hiring

The Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently published a report on “Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement” to include all of the federal law enforcement community.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates noted that the federal government has a lot of work to do in this area. Creating greater diversity in law enforcement has become a key component of the 21st Century Task Force on Policing. Greater diversity will not only change the face and culture of law enforcement, it will become the cornerstone of how we police in the United States moving forward. Why is this important? Simply stated, these are the people you will work with, supervise, lead, and one day be led by. This generation of employees will take the profession in a new direction.

WIFLE recently participated in two working groups held by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office on recruitment and hiring. Members of the law enforcement community from all sectors participated. The focus was on what type of person we will recruit and what obstacles exist to recruiting. For hiring, the focus was on how we hire and what needs to change in order to make hiring more inclusive.

The first thing the working group focused on was what skill sets law enforcement officers need to successfully police in the 21st Century. Skills such as problem solving, analytical thinking, communication, and de-escalation abilities were all discussed at length. The people we hire will look nothing like the people we have been hiring for the last 40 years.

Under hiring, the discussion turned to the need to realign position descriptions, performance evaluations, and training because we need to develop candidates into guardians instead of warriors. Our hiring process is a series of hurdles in which the survivors get the job.

As a profession, we lack evidence that the requirements actually predict successful job performance. For example, a six-foot solid wall climb is still used as a physical requirement. How does this equate to job performance? Law enforcement officers who do not have this requirement are no less capable than those who have them. Police chiefs also broached issues with polygraphs and background investigations, noting they are finding bias in the process and work product. One police chief noted that upon review of some background investigation reports, he found statements such as “the candidate lacks command presence” and “the candidate is not assertive enough.” Chiefs also noted the background investigators might see themselves as the last line of defense in maintaining the status quo of the old ways. Other participants said they thought polygraphs have improper questions, such as those concerning an officer’s lifestyle.

Departments found that their hiring requirements, such as no tattoos, having no associations with people with criminal records, and living in communities with zero tolerance policing policies all lead to the disqualification of promising candidates. Therefore, law enforcement leaders around the country are actively making changes to transform this career into a more inclusive and diverse profession, beginning with the DOJ.



Women in Federal Law Enforcement Inc. advocate the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in federal law enforcement occupations as a means to enhance the efficacy of law enforcement operations.

Posted in Hear it from WIFLE

Tags: WIFLE, federal hiring, diversity inclusion, COPS hiring program


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