Race and Ethnicity in Police Employment Practices

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Race and Ethnicity in Police Employment Practices
Isabel R. Rodriguez
University of Phoenix
October 3, 2011
Blanche Cook

Race and Ethnicity in Police Employment Practices
An important part of the United States workforce is made up of police officers. The number of police officers employed has grown drastically over the past few years. However, although the number of police officers employed has increased, public scrutiny has as well. The police employment practices have affected the publics’ perception of the police because of the factors involved as well as the desire to seek employment in law enforcement. The paper below will describe some of the factors involved with race and ethnicity when seeking police careers. Diversity among the law enforcement was limited until several years ago. A significant positive change has been seen in the perceptions of minorities within the employment of law enforcement. This helps to redress the historic workplace inequity by having police forces better reflect ethnic constituency of society (Perrott, 1999). However, minorities are still more likely to suffer inequalities. These inequalities are shaped by structural constraints that include childhood and adult poverty, unemployment, inadequate health care, and lack of economic and education opportunities (Smith, 2009). Minorities are also placed at the bottom of the social class. Because of these inequalities, employment with the police department has been difficult to achieve as some of these inequalities cannot be overcome by the already existing police. This in turn creates racially disparate outcomes. Minority recruitment is an essential component of the police and community relationship. Given the fact that the majority of police officers are White, the experience tends to be of the White norms, the White values, and the White beliefs. This in turn indicates that society is consumed by an occupational culture (O'Neill & Holdaway, 2006). Public scrutiny has affected a person’s perception of the police and his or her desire to seek a career in law enforcement because of police misconduct incidents. The sensitivity to misconduct by the police has caused minorities to form a generalized negative opinion based on these actions (Kelly, Guarneri, & Foley, 2007). White tends to see these incidents an individual situation. Minority groups believe race and ethnicity has a major impact on the behaviors and actions of police conduct and are factors to these incidents. Because of this public image, members of racial and minorities groups are less likely to consider a law enforcement career. They are reluctant to work in a system they view as racist. Working in an environment which racial and ethnic tension exists, discourages some minorities from inquire about such work. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2005), 32.4% of the officers employed were part of a minority group. Police recruiters look at race and ethnicity when hiring people for employment for several reasons. According to police recruiters, many inequalities that minorities are faced with reflect his or her ability to be successful in police employment. Because of this, the difference in race raises questions regarding the effectiveness of a minority officer versus a White officer. Another factor includes the opinion that minority officers will be more lenient with a person of his or her own cultural, thus make it difficult for the minority officer to apply the law. Cultural influences may dictate the outcome of the officer’s decision. Minority officers believe the law may be too harsh in some instances and are more than likely to seek rehabilitative practices than to seek punishment. These are practices that do not coincide with law enforcement department’s norms. On a more positive note, recruiting more minority officers can help extend the cultural knowledge within the police department allowing room for stronger communication in the community. The...
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