Last month, the police department in Fort Wayne, Indiana, noted an increase in diversity turnout among applicants showing up to take the physical agility test at the police training center.
Of roughly 500 people preparing for one of the 30 to 35 spots in the department’s 57th recruit class, which will be selected in May, Chief of Police Rusty York said he liked what he saw.
“This year, I was really impressed with the diversity of the turnout,” York told the News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne.
“If anything, I was disappointed in how few African-American females showed up, but as far as male Hispanics and male Asians, I was really impressed.”
This didn’t happen overnight or by accident, however. In the past few years, the department has recognized a need to recruit more minority candidates and has taken numerous steps to achieve a more diverse force.
According to data provided by police, as of August, 16 of the department’s 422 patrol officers and officials were Hispanic. Three were Asian or Pacific Islander.
From formal to informal, here are some of the innovative steps the department took to recruit more minority candidates to apply for a career in law enforcement:
• Advertising. The department advertised in predominately African-American publications before the current recruiting tryouts, and also stepped up efforts to advertise in Hispanic publications. The department also sent officers to speak at the Fort Wayne Urban League and college job fairs.
• Committee Approach. The department formed a civilian committee, including representatives from religious and civic associations, to analyze ways to improve the department’s recruiting and hiring process. The committee studied interview questions and the entire interview process to determine whether anything unintentionally excluded an applicant.
• Information Sessions. The department held three informational sessions for prospective applicants to outline the entire recruiting process and improve the lines of communication. Applicants were able to participate in a question-and-answer session, asking more details about the requirements for becoming a police officer.
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• Out-of-the-Box Thinking. The department also has occasionally stepped outside of the formal hiring process to snag a great candidate. For example, one Hispanic woman is currently going through the hiring process at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in a different city because there wasn’t a recruit class open when she wanted to join.
Hiring Female Officers
In addition, the department has taken steps to increase the presence of female officers. In 1982, only seven women served in the department. As of August 2006, there were 43 women working patrol and seven working as officials. That is 12% of the 422-officer force, the national average.
“I don’t think we start recruiting young enough,” said Chief Deputy Dottie Davis of the Southwest division in Indiana.
“We need to look at middle schools. By high school, many people are already looking at possible careers,” she added.
Another organization stepping up its efforts to appeal to women to join the ranks is the Women’s Justice Center in Sonoma, California. The organization says there are more than 50 current local vacancies, with more expected due to new early retirement policies.
On its website, the organization writes that this means “unparalleled opportunities for women and minorities to move into our local police and sheriff departments.”
Indeed, one such organization working to promote more women in law enforcement is the National Center for Women and Policing, which offers an online checklist to advise women on the various requirements of becoming an officer, including the application process, testing procedures, and academy training. The site also features an online job board of opportunities across the country.