The initial step to fixing any problem is realizing that there is one. When communities are hesitant to contact the police in the event of an emergency that is a significant issue. For a society to work hand in hand with any law enforcement agency, it is vital to establish trust where there is an “open” line of communication.
Relationships with law enforcement in areas with mostly low-income minorities have become strained. Police departments that have very little positive community involvement have severe and perplexing problems in the future. These issues can cause crime to gradually escalate in that community. Research suggests that increasing diversity in law enforcement agencies not only have faster response time to the residents that they serve but they are more open to reform, as well as initiate cultural and systemic changes within a police organization.
Having a diverse agency is not just bound to only race and gender. Diversity entails other characteristics as well including religion, language, life experience, sexual orientation, and cultural background. Increasing diversity efforts may attract more people from different cultural backgrounds, and life experiences to apply.
Former President Barack Obama's task force on 21st Century policing had written that when an agency's organization has a wide range of diverse backgrounds, it strengthens community relations. The more culturally diverse agencies not only attract more candidates to apply but also retain their current employees too. Unfortunately, statistics show that minority groups are still the smallest margin in many local agencies. Why is there such even a lack of diversity seen if it benefits the community and department culture?
A lack of trust between officers and a community deters individuals from pursuing a profession in law enforcement in the local area. The media also contributes to the misconception that all police officers are oppressive to minorities, intolerable, and a corrupt group of individuals. Another factor as to why it is difficult to increase hiring efforts is that many immigrants especially first and second generation are reluctant to apply.
It is also increasingly difficult to hire candidates with diverse backgrounds because of institutional racism. It is common for qualified individuals who are minorities to apply with private firms due to the history of negative stigmas that local organizations have.
A department should evaluate how their relationship currently stands with the community that it is serving. The next step after hiring candidates who qualify with diverse backgrounds is to properly train and enforce protocols that do not ignore cultural issues that promote misconduct on the job. Building an agency to be aware of the culture they are serving locally as well as providing training to respond appropriately to different situations is very important to overall success of improving community relations.