‘Community policing’ is fueled by diversity, equity and inclusion

‘Community policing’ is fueled by diversity, equity and inclusion

While police work is naturally tied to the idea of reducing criminal activity, being a successful law enforcement officer in 2023 requires a broader set of skills stretching beyond the ability to simply knock crime numbers down.

It involves structured and disciplined “community policing,” which allows agencies to work more closely with members of the public.

“In order to do community policing effectively, you really need to be able to work hand in hand instead of police organizations telling communities how we’re going to reduce crime,” said Sandy Jo MacArthur, a retired assistant chief with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is an essential aspect of community policing, and it refers to the recognition, appreciation and respect of the differences that exist among individuals and groups within a community.

Diversity encompasses a wide range of differences, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and socio-economic status.

Having a diverse police force contributes to creating a safer and more just society and demonstrates to communities that everyone is essentially working on the same team.

“When you’re serving a community, the community you’re serving wants to look at your organization and feel like they can relate to it,” MacArthur said. “If you are an organization made up of all men, all women or all one race, you definitely are going to cut out the majority of the people you’re trying to serve.”

Making police more effective

One of the main benefits of diversity in community policing is that it increases the effectiveness of law enforcement overall.

When police officers reflect the diverse makeup of the communities they serve, they are better able to understand and connect with residents, leading to improved communication, greater trust and enhanced collaboration among everyone involved.

Highlighting that point, MacArthur noted that there are more than 100 languages spoken in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

“Each of those languages basically equates to a culture,” MacArthur explained. “That clearly demonstrates why we can’t have a single focus and instead must take into account the breadth and depth of cultures living and working in Los Angeles, for example.”

Diverse police departments are better equipped to handle community tensions that may arise due to differences in cultural norms and beliefs.

When police officers have a deeper and more profound understanding of the cultures that exist around them, they are better able to mediate disputes and resolve conflicts in a manner that is fair, impartial and respectful.

“Optics is critically important, but actually understanding the different dynamics within each community is incredibly important as well,” MacArthur said. “I don’t think you can do that if you do not embrace the whole concept of diversity in the workplace.”

Police agencies that reflect the diversity of their communities are more likely to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of all residents, regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

That can help break down barriers and foster greater understanding between groups and individuals no matter how different their backgrounds or beliefs may be.

Technology plays a key role

Technological advancements have touched every aspect of our personal and professional lives, helping to further the mission of community policing by making it easier than ever for law enforcement to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.

“You have to really be using technology at every level within law enforcement organizations now,” said MacArthur. “You just cannot have a paper and pencil system anymore.”

Technology can bolster the recruitment process, making it more accessible and inclusive to a wider range of candidates.

Online job postings and applications can reach a larger pool of applicants, while applicant tracking systems can help eliminate unconscious bias that may exist in the hiring process.

Technology can be used to provide online diversity and inclusion training to officers, allowing departments to reach a larger number of officers at one time while ensuring that all staff members receive consistent and comprehensive training.

Perhaps most significantly, technology can also be used to collect and analyze data on demographics, hiring practices and promotion rates within police departments.

“There’s so much value in doing data analytics of information that we already collect,” MacArthur explained.

That information can potentially be used to identify patterns of discrimination and track progress toward diversity goals, helping departments make data-driven decisions and hold themselves accountable.

“I always say technology is not the panacea, but neither is our collective experience in law enforcement,” MacArthur said. “It’s a combination of those tremendous experiences we have coupled with new technology – that’s where the panacea lies.”

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