Now more than ever agencies are looking to fill their ranks with a diverse officer corps that reflects the populations they serve. This includes women and those from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as other minority groups.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, racial and ethnic minorities in state and local agencies made up 23.6 percent of full-time sworn personnel in 2003, up from 14.6 percent in 1987. Women accounted for 11.3 percent of officers in 2003 up from 7.6 percent in 1987. While the numbers are increasing, the profession continues to seek greater representation of women and minorities in its ranks, and many agencies are actively and aggressively recruiting these demographics. For many agencies, particularly those serving large immigrant communities, the need for racial and ethnic minorities extends far beyond traditional groups.
Furthermore, as agencies look for officers who mirror their communities, they are also extending their definitions of diversity. From this perspective, diversity can include religion, sexual orientation, age, family background or occupation, and even neighborhood or high school.
Law enforcement requires a unique blend of traits and characteristics. Some of these include
- effective communication
- intelligence, and
- the ability to relate to people on a personal level.
These are traits anyone can bring to the table regardless of gender, ethnic heritage, or background. Law enforcement is a field that respects and encourages individuality. Being a member of a minority group will not limit your ability to become a law enforcement officer or your chances of career success. Law enforcement is a field where diversity matters, is encouraged, and is sought after in recruitment efforts.
Officers who speak a second language are also in high demand and in some cases are given extra compensation for their skills.
There are several groups and membership organizations devoted to the advancement of women and minorities in law enforcement. Some of these include
- National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
- National Center for Women & Policing
- National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives
- Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
- National Latino Peace Officers Association
- National Asian Peace Officers Association
- National Native American Law Enforcement Association
- American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association
- Gay Officers Action League