he pivotal role that workplace diversity can play in promoting effective and representative law enforcement was captured by Chief Viverette in the President's Message that appeared in the December 2005 issue of the Police Chief:
We have learned that to be effective, police cannot operate alone; they require the active support and assistance of their communities. Central to maintaining that support is the recognition that law enforcement agencies must reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.
In January 2006, the inaugural meeting of the IACP Diversity Coordinating Panel was held at IACP headquarters. The panel is designed to bring sharper focus to IACP's commitment to promoting workplace diversity. As it evolves, the panel will help underscore the multiple benefits that workplace diversity brings to law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
Of course, the goal of achieving workplace diversity and recognizing associated benefits are not new to the profession or to IACP. Diversity issues have been a focal point in law enforcement at least since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Most recently, IACP published The Future of Women in Policing (1999) and Mobilizing the Community for Minority Recruitment (2004). Although progress has been made, opportunities and challenges remain. Considerable variation exists in the degree to which law enforcement agencies have achieved the goal of having personnel reflect the communities they serve. The panel recognizes that there exists no one-size-fits-all approach to the complex problem.
The goal of achieving a diverse workplace is intricately tied to other organizational issues, to local community culture and politics, and to the interaction between the two. In addition, the importance of diversity will be magnified as the profession continues to evolve. The need to recruit a diverse workforce will become even more critical as the missions and tactics of local law enforcement are adjusted to meet homeland security responsibilities and as leaders establish policies with respect to their agency's role, if any, in enforcing federal immigration laws.
The panel recognizes that law enforcement executives are committed to diversity in the workplace but face real-world challenges, including convincing reluctant community members that law enforcement is a viable profession. Despite this complexity, however, it is clear that establishing and maintaining a workforce representative of the community it serves depends heavily on leadership vision, planning, and execution. Success also rests with establishing true community partner ships. Through the Diversity Coordinating Panel, IACP can play a lead role in continuing to move the profession forward in this arena.
Why a Panel and Not a Committee?
Because the topic of diversity is broad and intersects many of the topics addressed by IACP and law enforcement, a new panel structure was necessary. Simply establishing another committee on diversity in law enforcement could not possibly address the broad scope of relevant issues.
The overarching goal of the panel is to develop a cohesive and consistent perspective on diversity throughout IACP and to help coordinate the broad spectrum of IACP work that has an impact, direct or indirect, on law enforcement workplace diversity. While increasing the representation of minorities and women in the law enforcement profession is a core objective, the panel recognizes that many issues and concerns common to all law enforcement agencies have implications for workplace diversity. These include recruitment and outreach strategies; candidate eligibility criteria; fitness standards; adapting to job-market changes; sustaining positive community relations and police-citizen partnerships; workplace mentoring programs; equipment selection; promotional processes; shift scheduling; pregnancy, child-care, and family leave policies; and diversity training programs-to name but a few.
Mission Statement and Goals
The panel has developed a mission statement and a set of objectives. The mission statement recognizes that many agencies are now engaged in innovative practices and its focus is on capacity building, peer-to-peer exchanges, and promising practices.
The Diversity Coordinating Panel shall identify, study, consider, and determine those programs, policies, and initiatives that will enhance the diversity of law enforcement agencies. The Diversity Coordinating Panel will focus on professional standards, recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotional practices, particularly as they pertain to groups historically under-represented in the law enforcement professions, including women and minorities. The panel promotes diversity throughout the command structure.
As a coordinating panel, members will work collaboratively with representatives from IACP's committees, divisions, and sections to leverage their expertise and to help ensure that a cohesive and consistent approach to diversity exists within the IACP. The panel is guided by the principle that workplace diversity is consistent with the tenets of professionalism, community service, and the protection of civil rights for all persons working in law enforcement agencies and all persons in the community.
The goals of the panel include the following:
- Promote the message that achieving diversity in the work place is an asset to law enforcement agencies.
- Identify the real and perceived obstacles that prevent or inhibit minorities, women, and members of other under-represented groups from seeking careers in law enforcement.
- Identify the factors that affect retention in law enforcement, particularly those that may be unique to minorities and women.
- Promote a broad perspective of diversity that considers differences in lifestyle, life experience, language capacity, and cultural perspectives.
- Identify promising practices of law enforcement agencies that have successfully achieved diverse workforces and identify those practices that may be replicated in other jurisdictions.
Besides coordinating efforts at IACP, the panel also is committed to working with other organizations that have adopted similar goals. To date, the panel has officially reached out to the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA), the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), the National Center for Women and Police, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). Several members of the Diversity Coordinating Panel are active members of these organizations.
The panel members have been selected based on their expertise and past work on a range of issues related to diversity in law enforcement. The panel includes law enforcement executives as well as persons from allied professions, including an academic researcher and a police psychologist. Many panel members also hold assignments with standing IACP committees, a circumstance that should help foster communication and coordination. Chief Michael Carroll of the West Goshen Township, Pennsylvania, Police (IACP fourth vice president) and Commissioner Gwen Boniface of the Ontario Provincial Police (general chair of the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police) serve as the IACP board members with oversight of the panel.
Panel members recognize that diversity in law enforcement is a complex topic and that solutions and innovation will not occur overnight. The panel co-chairs believe that this initiative brought forward by President Viverette has established a solid foundation for what will become a long-standing component of IACP's contribution to enhancing law enforcement professionalism. Chief Joseph Carter, IACP first vice president, has committed to supporting the work of the panel under his tenure. The panel looks forward to steady progress in the years to come.
The Diversity Coordinating Panel has had three meetings to date. The panel will be holding its first annual meeting during the annual IACP conference in Boston.
Contribution from IACP Membership
IACP members and readers of the Police Chief are encouraged to send information about their promising practices, relevant literature and policies, or ideas about prospective research to the Diversity Coordinating Panel. These and other comments or questions about the panel may be sent to (firstname.lastname@example.org). ■