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3: The Evolving Nature of Multiculturalism and Community Engagement

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    Chapter 3 – The Evolving Nature of Multiculturalism and Community Engagement

    Key Learning Objectives:

    • Be able to explain culture and how it impacts law enforcement and the community they serve
    • Explain the history of multiculturalism and how it presents challenges for law enforcement agencies
    • Be able to identify how police departments can improve diversity through hiring and recruitment processes.
    • Identify key laws and how they impact hiring, testing and examination processes used by police departments

    3.1 - What is a Culture?8

    Culture is one of those broad concepts that is used widely, although somewhat imprecisely, in everyday English. It also cuts across many academic disciplines. It touches, for instance, on anthropology, biology, history, mythology, political science, psychology, and sociology.

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    Pin It! Presentation on Culture and Society

    View this PowerPoint on Culture and Society to better define these terms.

    3.2 - History of Evolution of Multiculturalism in the United States9

    Where countries are changing and adding cultural and ethnic multiplicity, the police are most likely to be aligned with the old cultural and ethnic guard, or they may be perceived as such by new, or newly empowered, constituents. As a result, questions about the philosophy and practice of policing are ultimately liable to come under close and probing scrutiny.

    The police operate at “street level,” where they have direct contact with all who are involved in any way with law and public safety. In fact, the police represent the sole agency with which the vast majority of those who ever have any dealings with the criminal justice system come into contact. As a result, the police have enormous power to influence attitudes and public opinion about fundamental concerns regarding a political entity’s capacity to act in just, legitimate, and accountable ways. Police-community relations are shaped on the street and in the station houses, and it is there that such controversial practices as profiling and “zero tolerance” are enacted. Using their discretionary arrest powers, the police are also the gatekeepers of the criminal justice process. They determine who is subjected to the power of the law and who is not.

    Because of this unique role and powerful position in society, the police are likely both to

    influence and to be influenced by the social implications of migration and shifts in the political power of various communities. Rapid transformations in the relative heterogeneity of the population, and the accompanying discourse on multiculturalism, can lead to questions about the validity of definitions of laws or crimes for some groups and conceptions of “order” or “disorder” for others. Conversely, the arrival of new groups often provokes questions about the appropriateness of practicing what those groups consider “normal” domestic or familial relations, duties, or privileges. Thus, an increase in the number of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic communities and racial groups can give rise to conflicts about the legitimacy of legal and communal standards and definitions, and hence present an enormous challenge to law enforcement and order maintenance activities.

    Police dealings with racial and ethnic minorities today are constrained by cultural and legal norms that are palpably different from those of the past. In the United States and elsewhere, there is a new level of cultural support for tolerance and equal treatment under the law. For America, this is a matter of cultural realities catching up with national ideals.

    The United States is a nation of immigrants. From the beginning, it espoused the ideals of pluralism and equality. George Washington and other leaders thought they were creating a new race of men into which all the tribes of the world would be welcome to meld together, forming a new breed. It has taken two centuries to approach those ideals: one century to abolish slavery and another to prohibit discrimination.

    The civil rights movement of the 1960s had a profound effect. Bigotry and direct discrimination still occur. But they no longer enjoy the protected status and public tolerance they once had. They are acts of individuals; not public policies enacted with the intent to discriminate. The police (and the government in general) can no longer choose sides. They must strive for impartiality or risk public denunciation and lawsuits.

    For instance, the last time the United States faced the massive immigration it is experiencing today was at the end of the 19th century. Large numbers of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe streamed into the country. In the name of protecting the Anglo-Saxon race from mongrelization, political elites succeeded in passing immigration laws that completely prohibited the immigration of Asians and placed restrictive quotas on the immigration of Italians, Slavs, and Jews.

    Such patent discrimination is now unthinkable. Immigration restrictions were eliminated in the 1960s and 1970s as the norms against discrimination began permeating the culture. The impact of this change on policing can be seen in various examples. In 1954, state and local police throughout the southwestern states joined with the federal government to conduct a massive deportation of Mexican workers who were in the country illegally. Over a few weeks, 100,000 Mexicans were rounded up and expelled in what was officially called Operation Wetback. Radio stations called upon people to turn in suspected illegal immigrants. No apology was made, either for the use of ethnic slur “wetback” or for the harassment of Mexican American citizens who were caught up in the dragnet.

    In contrast, in 1997 the Chandler (Arizona) Police Department joined with the Federal Border Patrol to round up and deport 400 illegal Mexicans. In the process, they stopped several people who appeared to be Mexican and demanded to see their migration papers. The people were Americans and they objected. They filed a $32 million lawsuit against the city and won. Moreover, the Arizona Attorney General issued a scathing criticism of the police. A human relations officer and a Hispanic police liaison officer were appointed. Police officers were required to attend 1,500 hours of classes on cultural awareness and hate crimes.

    3.3 - Policing Challenges Present in a Multicultural Society10

    Delivery of policing services in multicultural communities is now common. Immigration has been the major driver of growth in many areas of the country. Asian immigrants have accounted for 43 percent of this growth since 1970, greatly increasing the presence of languages, cultural values, experiences, and lifestyles with which many other Americans have had little contact. Hispanic immigration and migration have reached every State in the country, resulting in new cross-cultural exchanges in many communities.

    The social fabric of many communities is in transition. Multiculturalism is already a reality in many communities and institutions. The extraordinary infusion of newcomers can heighten risk factors for conflict because of the underdevelopment of social organization within the newly arrived population and the inexperience of existing governmental and community resources working with them. The movement of existing American-born racial and ethnic populations towards an increasingly suburban and rural pattern includes heightened vulnerability to racial incidents and conflict between police and citizens. Organized racial or ethnic gangs or gang-like groups may form to prey upon newer residents of other races and ethnic groups in an attempt to force them to move and to prevent others from moving to suburban or rural communities.

    For these reasons understanding and recognizing changing community cultural and ethnic diversity is important to contemporary law enforcement efforts. Cultural characteristics such as language, customs and traditions are key elements which affect the relationship between immigrant populations and police. The challenge for the law enforcement is to recognize community and cultural diversity by effectively responding to the law enforcement and community needs of culturally diverse groups. In trying to accomplish this mission law enforcement executives have successfully utilized such strategies as recruiting officers from the immigrant community, cultural diversity training, community involvement, establishing community advisory committees, and educating the immigrant population on the fundamentals of the U.S. criminal justice system.

    Expanding or establishing community organizations to bridge relationships between racial and ethnic groups and between law enforcement and the community may be an important step towards improving community relations. Law enforcement executives and police officers would be well served by a high degree of involvement with community organizations, so that members of the police department are clearly seen as members of the community.

    As has been discussed throughout this chapter, community engagement is an essential component of police reform strategy. At the remedies stage, the focus shifts from the Division’s engagement with the community to the law enforcement agency’s engagement with the community, as well as the broader question of the agency’s accountability to democratic processes and the public. Community engagement, oversight, and democratic accountability go hand-in-hand in the Division’s current generation of reform agreements. All of the Division’s current generation of consent decrees require some form of community outreach and engagement, including mechanisms to institutionalize strong relationships between the law enforcement agency and the community it serves, ensure the community has a role in setting priorities for a police department, and make police practices and data transparent to the public.

    Community Outreach Plans:

    Nearly all of the Division’s current generation of reform agreements require law enforcement agencies to develop a plan for institutionalizing community engagement, whether by appointing community liaison officers, fostering police community partnerships, holding regular community meetings, or tracking and rewarding positive interactions between officers and community groups. For example, in East Haven, Connecticut, the Division’s reform agreement requires the appointment of a Community Liaison Officer fluent in English and Spanish whose responsibilities include monthly community meetings, review of civilian complaints to identity trends in community concerns, and regular briefings on community engagement with police leadership.

    Community Committees or Councils:

    The Division’s current model emphasizes the creation of or investment in standing committees or councils of community members with authority to advise the law enforcement agency about community concerns and proposed reforms. For example, in Seattle, Washington, the Division’s reform agreement established a Community Police Commission with diverse membership and broad authority to review and provide input on police reform and to receive and incorporate community feedback.

    Civilian Complaint Review Boards:

    Civilian review boards, which are a focus of the discussion of accountability mechanisms in the section that follows, provide another mechanism for community members to engage with police practices.

    Community-Based Mediation Programs:

    Some agreements—notably those in Ferguson, Missouri and New Orleans—provide for neighborhood-based mediation programs to promote the diversion of community disputes out of the criminal justice system and into community based, community-run institutions.

    Data Collection and Transparency:

    Robust collection of data about police activity, as well as ensuring transparency and accessibility of that data—also discussed as part of accountability measures below—are important to ensure that communities have the tools to provide informed input.

    The Role of the Independent Monitoring Team:

    As previously discussed, laying the foundation for strong police-community relationships is one of the most critical roles of the independent monitoring team. The Division’s agreements generally institutionalize face-to-face meetings 30 between the monitoring team and the public, to ensure that communities are engaged in the process of reform. The Division also maintains ongoing community engagement during the lifetime of a reform agreement, drawing upon the relationships established from the earliest days of an investigation. But the goal of the Division’s reform agreements is to ensure that once the Division and the independent monitor leave the jurisdiction, vibrant police-community relationships will remain as the foundation of sustainable constitutional policing.

    3.5 - Police Personnel Management in a Multicultural Society - Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Matters12

    The challenge of recruiting, hiring, and retaining a diverse workforce is certainly not limited to law enforcement. Throughout the country, in nearly every sector of society, people and organizations are grappling with this issue. Employers in a variety of industries have engaged in proactive efforts to expand opportunity and strengthen diversity. Yet this challenge remains particularly urgent in the field of law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies fulfill a fundamental role in our society, and in many communities, individual police are often the public face of local government. It therefore is critical that our nation's law enforcement agencies broadly reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

    Increased diversity within law enforcement agencies defined not only in terms of race and gender, but also other characteristics including religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language ability, background, and experience - serves as a critically important tool to build trust with communities. This finding is bolstered by decades of research confirming that when members of the public believe their law enforcement organizations represent them, understand them, and respond to them, and when communities perceive authorities as fair, legitimate, and accountable, it enhances trust in law enforcement, instills public confidence in government, and supports the integrity of democracy. This trust is essential to defusing tension, to solving crimes, and to creating a system in which resident’s view law enforcement as fair and just. Members of the public, including victims and witnesses of crime, may not approach or engage with law enforcement if they do not perceive such authorities to be responsive to their experiences and concerns. This trust - and the cooperation it facilitates - also enables officers to more effectively and safely perform their jobs.

    Research further suggests that increased diversity also can make law enforcement agencies more open to reform, more willing to initiate cultural and systemic changes, and more responsive to the residents they serve. Some have pointed to increased diversity as a catalyst for reform, enabling officers and law enforcement leaders alike to become more introspective and reflective about problems with their departments. A more reflective and open-minded culture in an agency can help drive reform across a range of areas, including civilian oversight, community policing, and racial bias.

    Additionally, a commitment to diversity by law enforcement agencies ensures that crucial public-sector jobs are available to all eligible qualified candidates and therefore helps ensure equal employment opportunity for all. Positions within law enforcement agencies often serve as the backbone of many communities, offering rewarding, long-term careers. Jobs in law enforcement create new pathways of economic opportunity for men and women motivated to serve their community and work hard to provide for their families and lift themselves into the middle class.

    In addition, while greater workforce diversity alone cannot ensure fair and effective policing, diversity can have a positive influence on specific activities and practices of law enforcement agencies.

    Social science research indicate there are likely four relevant factors at play contributing to creating a multicultural police department : (1) increased representation of racial minorities increases the legitimacy of the law enforcement agency among minority residents; (2) a greater presence of officers who are racial minorities not only is likely to change the public's perception of the agency, but these officers are also likely to be more knowledgeable and empathetic about the concerns and culture of minority communities; (3) a higher number of minority officers within an agency provides opportunities for greater contact and interactions between white and minority officers, which can shape new opinions and reduce negative beliefs or stereotypes about minority communities; and (4) the presence of minority officers is likely to introduce different perspectives into an agency.

    State of Diversity in American Law Enforcement

    There are approximately 18,000 Federal, State, County and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. These agencies range from police departments employing just one sworn officer to departments with more than 30,000 officers. In 2008, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducted a census of state and local law enforcement agencies. That census, which included 17,985 agencies, found that those agencies collectively employed more than 1.1 million people on a full-time basis, nearly 800,000 as sworn personnel. The census revealed that the vast majority of these agencies - more than 12,000 - are local police departments, a category that includes municipal, county, tribal, and regional police departments. BJS's research also found that there are more than 3,000 sheriffs' offices; approximately 2,000 special jurisdiction agencies, which are agencies that provide police services for entities or established areas within another jurisdiction (e.g., parks, schools, airports, housing authorities, and government facilities); 50 primary state law enforcement agencies; and nearly 700 other agencies, such as county constable offices. BJS also conducted a census of Federal law enforcement agencies in 2008: that survey collected data from 73 agencies, which employed approximately 120,000 full-time sworn law enforcement officers.

    More recent data from BJS' 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics data collection (LEMAS Survey) provide information about the demographics of these law enforcement agencies. Of the more than 12,000 local police departments, and their nearly 500,000 sworn officers, 48 percent of the departments employed fewer than 10 sworn officers. While the vast majority of these departments employ a relatively small number of sworn officers, 54 percent of the sworn officers in this country work for departments in jurisdictions with 100,000 or more residents. About 58,000, or 12 percent, of the full-time sworn personnel in these departments were female; female officers also accounted for nearly 10 percent of first-line supervisors in these departments. The LEMAS Survey found that 27 percent of full-time sworn officers are racial or ethnic minorities; African-American and Latino officers each comprised around 12 percent, while other minority groups, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander; and American Indian or Alaska Native, collectively comprised 3 percent. The LEMAS survey found similar demographics in the nation's sheriffs' offices: 14 percent of their full-time sworn officers were female (and 12 percent of the first-line supervisors were female); racial minorities comprised 22 percent of those officers, with Latino officers making up the largest share (11 percent), closely followed by African-American officers (9 percent).

    Practices for Increasing Diversity

    By adopting proactive recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies, law enforcement agencies can address barriers, drive reform, and make progress in ensuring that they more closely reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. In the section that follows, the promising practices - identified through existing online materials, independent research, and interviews - that various law enforcement agencies around the country have found to be particularly effective at increasing the diversity of their sworn officers. Given the sheer number of law enforcement agencies in the United States, it would nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive examination of promising practices that have been developed and are being used, but it does provide a number of salient examples focused on the key areas of recruitment and hiring.

    As previously noted, the practices discussed in this section should not be viewed as cure-all solutions for advancing diversity within law enforcement agencies. The effectiveness of any strategy to address diversity will depend on a number of localized factors specific to a law enforcement agency and the jurisdiction in which it operates. Moreover, the vast majority of the agencies consulted during this effort - including those discussed below - highlighted that there is more work they need to do in order to ensure that they better reflect the diversity of their communities. Nonetheless, the practices discussed below highlight promising efforts that have been adopted or are underway in communities across the country to advance diversity.

    While the practices adopted by law enforcement agencies vary considerably, successful diversity-building efforts by law enforcement agencies share several common themes, including:

    Ensuring that the agency's organizational culture is guided by community policing and procedural justice:

    Especially in communities that historically have had negative interactions with law enforcement, facilitating a culture that prioritizes community policing strategies - along with policies, programs, and practices that support diversity - can encourage individuals from these communities not only to consider, but also to apply for jobs as officers. Such a culture invites individuals who may not have previously considered law enforcement as a viable career option to view the profession as an impactful and meaningful way to serve their community.

    Engaging stakeholders - both from within and outside the law enforcement agency to play a role in creating a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community:

    While chiefs, senior management, and human resource personnel may play pivotal roles in the hiring process in most law enforcement agencies, there are many others who can be called upon to assist in the process of attracting, selecting, and retaining a cadre of officers that reflects the diversity of the community. Officers and other personnel are often the best spokespeople and advocates for their agencies. They can be deployed to connect and engage with a diverse array of individuals to increase their awareness about law enforcement careers, address barriers encountered during the application process, and provide support and mentorship once officers are on the job. There is also a plethora of community organizations that stand willing and ready to partner with law enforcement agencies.

    Being willing to re-evaluate employment criteria, standards, and benchmarks to ensure that they are tailored to the skills needed to perform job functions, and consequently attract, select, and retain the most qualified and desirable sworn officers:

    Law enforcement agencies that have seen success in attracting a diverse workforce have generally paid particular attention to specific trends within their agencies that disproportionately affect applicants who are racial minorities, women, or from other underrepresented populations during the hiring process. Once cognizant of these barriers, these agencies have taken steps to proactively address the problem and ensure that criteria, standards, and benchmarks are job related and consistent with law enforcement needs. This has helped these agencies attract, select, and retain qualified officers with the values and skill sets necessary for the job.

    Recruitment

    Many law enforcement agencies have succeeded at recruiting racial minorities, women, and other individuals from underrepresented populations by partnering with community or civic organizations. For these agencies, community outreach - which can include "meet and greet" events, programming at religious and educational institutions, and community fairs - is not an optional engagement, but rather a critical part of their recruitment efforts. A number of agencies have worked to formalize these types of community engagement efforts. A central underpinning of this approach is the recognition that a law enforcement agency's existing workforce, particularly its cadre of sworn officers, is one of their most valuable recruitment tools. Yet these agencies recognize that effective recruitment means deploying these officers in a manner that will yield an applicant pool that is not only qualified for the job but also reflective of the broader community. To that end, agencies have thoughtfully considered how they can best use their existing workforce and their interactions with community and civic organizations to accomplish this objective:

    • The Worcester (Massachusetts) Police Department organizes application process workshops and conducts outreach to religious and faith-based organizations, local colleges, veterans, and minority-owned businesses, and community-based social service agencies including those serving Southeast-Asian (primarily Vietnamese), African-American and Latino communities. In addition to engaging potential applicants from these communities that are underrepresented within the police department, these workshops are targeted to particular members of historically-underrepresented communities, including, for example, highly esteemed Vietnamese community elders who share information with their grandchildren and other family members or social workers who share their knowledge of the application process with their clients. These outreach efforts reflect the police chief's specific focus on increasing diversity among the department's ranks. With the added benefit of an intact consent decree in place for the Worcester Police Department, these efforts have paid dividends: in 2015, the department reported that, out of the all men who took the civil service exam, 37 percent were men of color; out of all women who took the exam, 56 percent were women of color.
    • The Miami-Dade (Florida) Police Department has engaged in a number of community-oriented programs that it attributes to bolstering its share of officers who are women and racial minorities. In addition to "meet and greet" events that take place at churches and community fairs, the police department places a significant emphasis on having a designated officer to recruit fellow officers within the department to go out and speak to the community. It also employs and promotes a ride-along observer program to attract a diverse pool of applicants and introduce them to the duties and responsibilities of the job
    • The Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department empowers and expects its officers to engage in recruitment efforts. To that end, it has established recruiting cadres for specific areas of interests, geographies, or backgrounds, including a focus on candidates of color, veterans, and women. Each recruiting cadre is tasked with continually updating its strategies in order to ensure that the recruitment message is focusing on specific demographics. The cadres also include civilian employees, who are encouraged to assist in recruiting efforts. The department has found that these employees are especially helpful in dispelling myths and fighting stereotypes about the department.
    • The Austin (Texas) Police Department, in an effort to encourage more women to apply, organizes recruitment and information sessions specifically designed to explain the hiring process and career opportunities for women at the agency. The department publishes YouTube videos, such as "Women of APD," that feature women talking about their experience serving as officers in the police department.

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    Think about it . . . Officer Recruitment Campaigns

    Below are links to promotional videos for three different police departments. Watch at least two of them.

    1. Alexandria, Louisiana Police Department Recruiting Video
    2. New Zealand Police Recruitment
    3. Portland Police

    Each video chooses a different medium to emphasize different aspects of police work. Which promotional video did you think was most effective? Why? If you oversaw a recruitment video for your local police department what would you choose to focus on? Why?

    A number of law enforcement agencies have partnered with educational institutions within their communities, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, in an effort to encourage youth to consider careers in law enforcement. This approach allows students to build relationships with their local agencies as well as gain an understanding about the unique challenges and rewards that come with a career in law enforcement. This outreach also provides students an opportunity to interact with police outside of the enforcement context. Additionally, these partnerships afford agencies an opportunity to counsel youth early enough to facilitate later success in the application process, by, for example, counseling youth about the need to be truthful during polygraph exams, raising awareness about how the agency weighs previous drug usage, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining good credit.

    • The Detroit (Michigan) Police Department engages in a range of outreach efforts with high school students, specifically focusing on outreach to African-American youth to build relationships with them in the classroom and outside of an enforcement context. Through elective classes and mentoring programs in high school, the department is working to address negative perceptions about the police in urban neighborhoods and encouraging students to consider career in law enforcement. The department's student engagement work includes inviting students to write essays about the changes they want to see in their city.

    Many agencies have realized that in their efforts to effectively allocate limited resources, online communication can be a valuable asset in their recruitment strategies. This can be particularly useful for smaller agencies that do not always have the budget or personnel to travel or run comprehensive recruitment programs. Moreover, given that many individuals, and particularly younger people, predominantly rely on the internet to seek out and research career opportunities, the innovative use of technology and social media can ensure that law enforcement agencies are reaching a diverse array of potential applicants.

    • The Metropolitan (District of Columbia) Police Department prioritizes innovative technology strategies to recruit officers. Ninety percent of applicants initially get in touch with the department, which maintains a robust Facebook and Twitter presence, from either their smartphone or tablet, according to a September 2016 Washington Post story. [Select Link to read full story] The agency also uses live online chat rooms to interact directly with potential applicants, has revamped and streamlined its online advertising, and is in the process of building a new website focused solely on recruiting, with a customer service focus centered around instant answers to questions from applicants.

    Hiring

    Law enforcement is a profession that, for good reason, requires extensive vetting, research, and investigation before choosing to hire an officer. Standards undoubtedly have an important role to play in the process. But certain barriers - including background investigations that treat all arrests and criminal convictions alike regardless of type of offense or how recent the occurrence, or even screen out those voluntarily admitting to drug use alone (without any conviction) can prevent the agency from hiring the diverse officers it needs to connect with and serve the entire community. Cognizant of this challenge, many agencies have begun to re-evaluate such barriers and more holistically evaluate what an applicant can contribute to the agency and the community by also considering facts about one's experience, skills, or record in a broader, comprehensive context.

    • The Wichita (Kansas) Police Department has restructured its hiring practices so that the process provides a more comprehensive evaluation and review of an applicant's life experience and skill set. The department made this change after determining that too many candidates - and particularly those from underrepresented populations - were being denied positions and turned away without a fair and nuanced analysis of their prior conduct. As the department's chief recently explained "I want people who have had adversity in their life and maybe had a bumpy road. They have more life experience. They can relate to someone better than maybe people that have never struggled with how they're going to pay for their next meal or their next rent payment."

    Aspects of selection procedures, including some physical ability tests and written examinations, can disproportionately screen out certain groups, including women and racial or ethnic minorities, based on factors that have little or no relationship to the requirements of the job. Many agencies are working to re-evaluate their screening practices to ensure they are focusing on selection criteria that are more holistic and accurate measures of candidates' skills and abilities. The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division regularly brings enforcement actions opposing the use of written and physical ability tests that have been shown to create unnecessary barriers to employment. Through the resolution of these cases, law enforcement agencies have adopted new selections procedures that effectively select qualified individuals and have a less adverse impact on racial minorities and women.

    • The Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department has made significant progress in increasing the number of women it hires to be officers. The agency's physical agility test used to require a bench press component, which deterred some candidates from applying and led others to fail - in part because they were not familiar with the specific weight lifting equipment or exercise. Recognizing these challenges, the agency began to give candidates the option to do push-ups, instead of the bench press, to test their upper body strength. Department leadership believes this change resulted in more women competing and passing the physical agility test. Overtime, the bench press was completely removed from the exam.
    • The St. Paul (Minnesota) Police Department determined - after analyzing the breakdown of pass rates for African-American, Latino, and Asian-American applicants - that its testing process was having a disproportionately harmful impact on candidates of color without a commensurate job-related benefit. The department found that candidates of color performed worse on the situational and written tests but significantly better than white candidates during the in-person interview. The department re-evaluated its hiring criteria to ensure that its testing criteria accurately aligned with the qualities that were most important on the job. It changed its written tests to focus more on the candidate's personal history and community engagement and removed the entire situational component. The department reported that it was able to hire more diverse, but equally qualified applicants using this new approach. The agency believes that one of the most important criteria to evaluate when reviewing a prospective officer's application is his or her genuine desire to be out in public to engage in community-policing with all members of the community.

    To help address some of the misconceptions, confusion, and lack of awareness about hiring procedures, law enforcement agencies have streamlined their hiring processes and also made these processes more transparent. Agencies have found these efforts, which benefit all applicants, especially helpful for applicants from underrepresented populations who, as noted above, may be more likely to be less familiar with the long, complex processes that have traditionally defined the law enforcement hiring process.

    • The South Portland (Maine) Police Department is working to address the barriers that result from various civil service ordinances that create a cumbersome, overly drawn-out process for applicants. Given that the civil service exam is only offered once a year, the agency has begun experimenting with moving away from the once-a-year test to one that is administered more frequently and combining the required oral boards into one. The changes being explored allow for more frequent opportunities to access the hiring process. An ongoing evaluation of the streamlined process is resulting in a marked increase of additional candidates.
    • The Yonkers (New York) Police Department found that providing free training to city residents before its civil service exam in 2013 led to 60 percent of test takers who were minorities and a 25 percent increase in the number of African-American officers. The police commissioner explained, "We hope to reap the benefits of hiring additional minority officers from this exam over the next few years.”

    A number of law enforcement agencies have found that engaging community members in the hiring process can have a positive impact on developing a more diverse workforce. Agencies have worked with community advisory groups and committees to not only develop and revise hiring criteria, but to also identify community members who can serve on agency interview panels. These kinds of practices ensure that community members get a voice and a vote in who their police department ends up hiring.

    • The St. Paul (Minnesota) Police Department created a panel interview process that includes community members. Specifically, members of the department's Community Advisory Group provide recommendations about community members who can serve as interview panelists. The department has found that this change has had a positive impact on selecting individuals from underrepresented populations because during the interview process, these community members ask different questions and explore qualities that might otherwise go unnoticed, but which reveal diversity in experience and background.
    • The Sarasota (Florida) Police Department consulted the department's Independent Police Advisory Panel, which includes a diverse array of community leaders, and sought input on how to revise the recruitment and hiring processes to more easily identify high-quality officers. The department has also worked with community leaders to encourage applicants from underrepresented populations to apply to work for the department.

    Legal Considerations

    Federal civil rights laws - mostly notably Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) - provide a number of protections that prohibit public employers, including law enforcement agencies, from engaging in employment discrimination. This section provides an overview of trends identified and lessons learned through the enforcement of these laws, including as a result of the Federal government's litigation experience and enforcement work combating discrimination and advancing diversity in state and local law enforcement agencies. A review of this case law also provides helpful insights into practices that interfere with the recruitment, selection, and retention of qualified women and minorities in state and local law enforcement agencies.

    Some of the cases involve challenges to policies and practices that did not explicitly reference race, sex, or any other legally protected category but nevertheless had an unjustified adverse impact on those groups; these types of barriers are often overlooked or simply accepted as "business as usual." Yet these cases are critically important and can often be a catalyst for systemic change. Of course, complying with the law and advancing diversity also requires ensuring that law enforcement agencies do not intentionally discriminate, which will be discussed. Importantly, Title VII sets a minimum standard for law enforcement agencies in terms of non-discriminatory practices. The law defines what agencies should not do. Mere compliance with the law, however, is not a substitute for the voluntary, affirmative steps that law enforcement agencies can take to ensure they build and sustain a diverse workforce that is reflective of the communities they serve.

    Title VII outlaws intentional discrimination, also known as disparate treatment. The law's reach extends beyond that and also prohibits neutral practices that create unnecessary barriers to the employment or advancement of protected groups. As the Supreme Court explained in its landmark 1971 decision {Griggs v. Duke Power Company}(1971), Title VII "proscribes not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation. This type of discrimination, commonly referred to as "disparate impact" discrimination means that an employment practice that disproportionately excludes a group on a basis protected by Title VII violates the law if it is "not job-related and consistent with business necessity." Even if such a practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity, an employer may still be liable for discrimination if there is an alternative employment practice available with a less severe impact that serves the employer's legitimate needs.

    Both the government and private plaintiffs bring Title VII cases against law enforcement agencies to challenge unnecessary neutral barriers that create systematic exclusion of protected classes from law enforcement positions and promotions and intentional employment discrimination against individuals from protected classes. The practices challenged through these cases and the remedies created as a result of this litigation provide law enforcement agencies with important guidance about the steps they can take to comply with Federal anti-discrimination law and promote diverse work forces.

    Recruitment Case Law

    Recruitment practices can unlawfully exclude qualified applicants from protected classes before they even have the opportunity to apply for careers in law enforcement. The failure to advertise officer openings in ways that are likely to reach a diverse pool of candidates in (or near) the jurisdiction where a law enforcement agency is located may violate Title VII if it results in the exclusion of potentially qualified applicants on the basis of race or national origin. For example, the Federal government brought a case against the City of Warren in Michigan after the city limited its advertising of police and fire positions, resulting in only one African-American applicant. The court found that the limitation of advertising violated Title VII, and after the city advertised in newspapers outside of the county, including ones with circulation in nearby Detroit, the number of African-American applicants grew to 50 {United States v. City of Warren}(2001). Law enforcement agencies may also run afoul of Title VII by relying solely on word-of-mouth recruitment practices, especially when the enforcement agency or the community is not diverse and word-of-mouth does not extend to minority applicants Such hiring practices can entrench prior discriminatory practices especially when a law enforcement agency's workforce and labor force are predominately white {Cleveland Branch, NAACP v. City of Parma}(2011). In another case, a court found that the informal recruitment by friends and family was a reason that applicants were predominately white because the workforce itself was predominately white due to years of discriminatory tests {United States v. City of New York}(1990). To remedy discrimination in recruitment, courts have required the advertisement of law enforcement positions in the neighboring metropolitan areas with general circulation media as well as newspapers with media with primarily African-American readership.

    Once a violation is found, simply opening the doors to a diverse set of applicants may not suffice. Courts have recognized that women and racial minority applicants may also be deterred from applying to law enforcement agencies that have developed a reputation for discrimination {United States v. Cent. Motor Lines, Inc}(1978). This deterrent effect can make victims of discriminatory hiring practices reluctant to take advantage of remedial opportunities to join a law enforcement agency that has been previously found guilty of engaging in unlawful discrimination. These barriers are not insurmountable, and agencies can overcome this perception. For example, a court found that an agency's funded and active recruitment efforts directed at racial and ethnic minorities substantially increased the number of applicants from racial and ethnic minorities {United States v. City of New York}(1990).

    Hiring in law enforcement agencies usually follows a series of steps in a fixed order; agencies frequently rely on written tests, oral interviews, physical tests, background checks, and other processes to screen applicants. These processes may violate the law if they disproportionately screen out applicants from protected classes and are not job-related and consistent with business necessity. This holds true even if the screens were not intended to discriminate. Even if such practices are job-related and consistent with business necessity, an employer will still be liable under Title VII if it failed to use an alternative employment practice with a less severe impact that serves its legitimate employment needs [42 United States Code, Section 2000e-2(k)].

    Written Exam Case Law

    Extensive Title VII case law has revealed that certain written tests used as part of entry-level hiring in state and local law enforcement agencies are likely to create an unlawful disparate impact and are not necessary for selecting the most qualified candidates. For example, while skills like reading comprehension and arithmetic may be important for these positions, tests that focus solely on these skills may not sufficiently or accurately represent the skills needed for the position and thus unnecessarily screen out qualified applicants. Reliance on these tests can create an unnecessary barrier to the hiring of qualified racial minority applicants who may have been selected if the test were a better reflection of what was actually needed on the job {United States v. State of Delaware} (2003). As one court explained:

    “I recognize that it is natural to assume that the best performers on an employment test must be the best people for the job. But, the significance of these principles is undermined when an examination is not fair. As Congress recognized in enacting Title VII, when an employment test is not adequately related to the job for which it tests - and when the test adversely affects minority groups - we may not fall back on the notion that better test takers make better employees” {United States v. City of New York}(1990).

    To remedy such violations of Title VII (and protect against them in the future), several state and local law enforcement agencies have worked successfully to create more representative tests that capture both cognitive and non-cognitive skills and abilities required to succeed on the job and consistent with their business and organizational needs {United States v. City of Dayton} (2009). Because these tests reflect more of the qualities necessary for job performance, they help jurisdictions select qualified individuals. Equally importantly, such tests tend to have less unnecessarily adverse impacts on racial minorities.

    Courts also have paid close attention to the ways law enforcement agencies use the results of those tests in the hiring process. Agencies have traditionally used the results of tests in a variety of ways: including pass/fail screens, rank ordering, and combining the score with other selection procedures. Title VII requires that an employer justify how it uses the selection procedure, and so agencies should consider if the way in which they are using the results of an exam is having an adverse impact. Courts have refused to accept cut-off scores that do not meaningfully distinguish between applicants {Lewis v. City of Chicago} (2005). And in determining that a jurisdiction should not have used its test results in rank order, one court stated:

    The frequency with which such one-point differentials are used for important decisions in our society, both in academic assessment and civil service employment, should not obscure their equally frequent lack of demonstrated significance. Rank-ordering satisfies a felt need for objectivity, but it does not necessarily select better job performers. In some circumstances the virtues of objectivity may justify the inherent artificiality of the substantively deficient distinctions being made. But when test scores have a disparate racial impact, an employer violates Title VII if he uses them in ways that lack significant relationship to job performance {Guardians Association of N.Y.C. Police Dept, Inc. v. Civil Service Commission} (1980).

    And even when an agency can show that its written test relates to a law enforcement officer's job duties and responsibilities, the test may still violate Title VII if an alternative employment practice with a less severe impact that serves its legitimate interests exists [42 United States Code, Section 2000e-2(k)]. As a result, state and local law enforcement agencies should review their testing practices to determine whether they have an adverse impact on minority applicants. If so, they should consider alternative measures that might reduce the disparate impact while at the same time serving their legitimate business needs. Such alternative measures may include new testing formats and content areas, assigning different weights to test components, and alternative scoring methods {Bradley v. City of Lynn} (2006).

    Physical Tests Case Law

    Physical tests, which have also been used to screen applicants for law enforcement officer positions, are held to the same legal standard as written tests: if there is an adverse impact, the test and its use must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Some physical ability tests that purport to simulate the tasks undertaken by police officers have been found to have an unlawful disparate impact on women and where they are insufficiently related to actual job duties. {Thomas v. City of Evanston} (1985). For example, a physical test that included a stair climb, a run, and an obstacle course was found to have a disparate impact on women and be insufficiently related to the police officer job. Similarly, tests that purport to measure overall physical fitness (such as push-ups, sit-ups, and running) but apply a unitary standard to men and women have been found to disproportionately exclude women from law enforcement positions and be insufficiently job related. For example, the requirement that men and women perform the same number of push-up and sit-up components of one physical fitness test was found to violate Title VII.{United States v. City of Erie} (2005).

    Jurisdictions interested in assessing the physical fitness of applicants without disproportionately excluding qualified women from their ranks may consider using fitness tests with gender normed standards. These tests actually require men and women to show similar levels of fitness while taking into account demonstrated physiological differences between men and women {Bauer v. Lynch} (2016). These tests tend not to have a disparate impact on women and result in the selection of qualified applicants. As one court, which recently affirmed the use of a gender normed physical fitness test by a law enforcement agency, has explained:

    Men and women simply are not physiologically the same for the purposes of physical fitness programs. . . . Physical fitness standards suitable for men may not always be suitable for women, and accommodations addressing physiological differences between the sexes are not necessarily unlawful . . . . Put succinctly, an employer does not contravene Title VII when it utilizes physical fitness standards that distinguish between the sexes on the basis of their physiological differences but impose an equal burden of compliance on both men and women, requiring the same level of physical fitness of each.

    Absolute or Minimum Requirements Case law

    Many law enforcement agencies often employ absolute or minimum requirements in their entry-level hiring that may disproportionately screen out women and racial minorities in violation of Title VII. Such requirements include education, certification, residency, and other requirements for employment with the law enforcement agency. Duration residency requirements - policies requiring a term of residency in the jurisdiction served by the law enforcement agency prior to applying - in particular, have been found to violate Title VII when they have had a disparate impact on the basis of race {Newark Branch, NAACP v. Town of Harrison} (1990). However, courts have permitted employers to use policies that require a new employee to move into the jurisdiction and establish residency within a time period of being hired {United States v. City of Warren} (1991). Similarly, courts have rejected the use of blanket height and weight requirements in the hiring of law enforcement officers as discriminatory on the basis of sex, race, and/or national origin {Vanguard Justice Soc. v. Hughes } (1979). These requirements - for example a requirement that all police officers be over 5 feet 10 inches - tend to screen out women from the job but are not necessary to successful job performance.

    Background Checks Case law

    Law enforcement is a profession that, for valid reasons, requires extensive and thorough vetting of applicants. For that reason, law enforcement agencies, like many other employers, also often utilize extensive background checks as part of their selection processes, including information relating to criminal history. However, an employer's use of criminal background information can violate either the intentional or disparate impact provisions of Title VII, depending on how that information is used. When using criminal background checks, employers should consider the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job. While some applicants have succeeded in challenging criminal background check policies as having unlawful disparate impacts on the basis of race or national origin, cases bringing these types of claims against law enforcement agencies have generally not been successful in court {Foxworth v. Pa. State Police} (2007).

    A number of law enforcement agencies also use credit history checks and psychological evaluations as employment screens. Non-law enforcement agency employers' use of these evaluations has also been questioned as discriminatory employment barriers to women and racial minority applicants although these challenges have also generally been unsuccessful {Bibbs v. Sheriff of Cook County} (2015).

    In conclusion, effective police managers need to stay current on all laws and court opinions regarding recruiting and hiring policies. By staying informed will limit the agencies civil liabilities as well as move an agency toward the goal of looking more like the population they serve.

    person with megaphone

    Act It Out! “Communicating Across Cultures” - The Situation

    You are a senior at BTU (Beaver Technical University), the top engineering school in your country with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and management science. This is the summer between your junior and senior year, and you are interning with Course Management International (CMI). CMI, a five-year-old company, developed and now sells educational software that helps faculty manage many of the administrative tasks associated with teaching a course.

    As part of the internship, you have been placed in a team with five other students from different universities. The composition of the team is three men and three women, all of whom are between their junior and senior years in school. By the end of the summer, you are to submit a report that describes two new functions that CMI should develop for the newest release of the software.

    Continue to “The Problem” to complete this activity.

    One of the members of the team is consistently late for team meetings and not pulling his/her weight. (If you feel it’s important to know the gender of the team member, you can choose whichever you prefer.) Because you were are the team leader, you must talk to the team member about this problem.

    The Complication

    You, your teammates, and CMI exist in one of the following two cultures:

    BLUE CULTURE
    Beliefs, Values and Attitudes that Underlie Your Culture's Communication

    • You believe a person’s first loyalty is to his/her family.
    • Obedience to elders and those in authority is very important.
    • You believe in feelings more than reasoning, and you believe people’s feelings should be protected at all costs.
    • Yours is a hierarchal culture.
    • The past is considered more important than the future or the present.
    • Members of your culture tend toward holistic rather than analytical thinking.

    Verbal/Nonverbal Traits of Your Culture

    • Speakers use an indirect communication style.
    • Members of your culture frequently express positive attitudes about others while downplaying their own worth.
    • Your conversation distance is close (about 15 inches, face-to-face).
    • Eye contact depends on the relative status of the individuals engaged in a conversation.
    • Silence is respected.

    YELLOW CULTURE
    Beliefs, Values and Attitudes that Underlie Your Culture's Communication

    • You believe that people determine their own destinies and should make their own choices based on their own preferences, desires, and needs.
    • You make decisions in a democratic manner.
    • You believe in reason over feelings.
    • You believe time is a valuable commodity, and you don’t want to waste any.
    • You believe conflict is a way of reaching good decisions.
    • Members of your culture tend toward analytic rather than holistic thinking.

    Verbal/Nonverbal Traits of Your Culture

    • Your conversation distance is far (about 35 inches, face-to-face).
    • You openly express emotions (e.g., anger, dissatisfaction, happiness).
    • You ask many questions.
    • You are direct in expressing your ideas and opinions, and you look people in the eye when you do so.
    • You don't express thanks to others because in your view people chose their actions to create their own destinies; in other words, if someone does something for you, he/she is also doing it for himself/herself.
    The Task

    From the perspective of BOTH the Blue Culture and the Yellow Culture, each group should outline the key points that the team leader should make in trying to persuade the team member to change his/her problematic behavior. Be ready to describe those strategies and tactics or to role play the interaction if called upon.


    3: The Evolving Nature of Multiculturalism and Community Engagement is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dave Wymore & Tabitha Raber.

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