Cover: Identifying Barriers to Diversity in Law Enforcement Agencies

Identifying Barriers to Diversity in Law Enforcement Agencies

Published Jul 26, 2012

by Carl F. Matthies, Kirsten M. Keller, Nelson Lim


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Research Questions

  1. How can barriers to creating diversity within police departments be identified?
  2. Once identified, how can they be addressed and remedied?

The authors describe how law enforcement agencies can use barrier analysis, a method of assessment aimed at identifying potential obstacles to obtaining resources or participating in a program, to better understand and address the challenge of creating diversity among their personnel. They examine key points in the career lifecycle, such as recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention practices, to determine where women and racial/ethnic minorities face obstacles that might account for less-than-proportionate representation among applicants, hires, and senior leadership. They describe the barrier analysis process, illustrate how it can help law enforcement agencies increase the diversity of their workforce, and present case studies featuring police departments that have used barrier analysis.

Key Findings

A Complete Barrier Analysis Consists of Five Phases

  • Phases 1 through 3 — developing a detailed flow chart of the workforce management process, constructing population benchmarks, and comparing employee distribution to benchmarks — help agencies determine whether barriers exist.
  • Phases 4 and 5 — identifying potential barriers and addressing and removing barriers — are carried out when representation of any gender or racial/ethnic group is found to be lacking in the agency's workforce.

Together, the Five Phases Can Help Agency Leaders Identify Key Barriers and Take Proactive Steps to Build a More Diverse Workforce

  • Agencies can experiment with changes in the type and/or targeting of recruiting.
  • The validity of any hiring requirement can be examined to ensure that it is a strong predictor of future job performance and that there are no alternative tools that are equally valid but show less adverse impact.
  • Administrative data or exploratory interviews or surveys with workforce members can be used to further explore differences in retention and promotion decisions.

This research was conducted in the RAND Center on Quality Policing (CQP) within the Safety and Justice Program of RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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