Report cites barriers to more diverse police departments

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lack of trust in law enforcement and burdensome hiring criteria are among the barriers to creating more diverse police agencies, according to a federal report Wednesday.

The report, from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, examines the challenges to diversity in law enforcement and singles out individual agencies it says have taken innovative steps to encourage the recruitment of minority officers.

The lack of diversity among law enforcement agencies has become an urgent concern in recent years amid signs of strained relations between police departments and minority communities.

A Justice Department report last year on the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, raised concerns that the police force was overwhelmingly white even though the city was majority black. The Obama administration's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, meanwhile, recommended that agencies promote diversity in race, gender and cultural background as a path toward better relationships with their communities.

"One of the issues that can have a big impact on (trust) is whether law enforcement agencies reflect the communities they serve, whether they look like the communities they serve," Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said in the report's release.

Student Reactions

Rowan Mayo, sophomore animation major

“If the police department isn’t as diverse as the public it could be an ‘us versus them’ dynamic,” Mayo said.

Tyren Moffitt, freshman elementary education and special education major

"With a more diverse body of people I feel like [the police] can connect more to different people,” Moffitt said.

Sydney Brundige, sophomore drawing major

“It [diverse police departments] would be beneficial in areas that are more diverse, like in situations when the police aren’t as diverse as the public,” Brundage said.

Amy Niehaus, senior elementary education major

“Without diversity there’s not as many voices in the department speaking about issues,” Niehaus said.