Cover: Increasing Organizational Diversity in 21st-Century Policing

Increasing Organizational Diversity in 21st-Century Policing

Lessons from the U.S. Military

Published Dec 10, 2012

by Abigail Haddad, Kate Giglio, Kirsten M. Keller, Nelson Lim


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Research Question

  1. How can law enforcement agencies use lessons learned by the military to promote the development of a racially/ethnically diverse workforce?

Both the military and police departments are concerned about recruiting and promoting a racially/ethnically diverse workforce. This paper discusses three broad lessons from the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) that can be used to inform police department hiring and personnel management: qualified minority candidates are available, career paths impact diversity, and departments should leverage organizational commitment to diversity. Additionally, specific suggestions are given as to how law enforcement agencies can incorporate each of these lessons.

Key Findings

Qualified Minority Candidates Are Available

  • Certain aspects of eligibility requirements for entrance into the police force may adversely impact eligibility rates for racial/ethnic minority candidates who might otherwise be qualified for good police work.

Career Paths Impact Diversity

  • Police force diversity may face challenges if racial/ethnic minorities tend to disproportionally occupy positions with specializations that are less likely to result in promotion to leadership positions.

Police Departments Should Leverage Organizational Commitment to Diversity

  • Police departments should appoint a leader to take charge of developing goals, seeking outreach opportunities, maintaining positive relationships, and assessing how goals are being met.
  • Police departments should make diversity an integral part of organizational culture in order to enhance legitimacy in the public eye.
  • Police departments should institute mechanisms for accountability by applying their skills in data analysis to assess diversity.


  • Develop partnerships with organizations that work directly with talented racial/ethnic minority youth to help increase the pool of eligible recruits.
  • Expand career mentoring to ensure that all police officers are aware of what decisions will improve their likelihood of promotion.
  • Give a leader responsibility for promoting diversity in recruitment, retention, and promotion.
  • Conduct further agency-specific research that reflects the culture, policies, and challenges that are unique to law enforcement.

The research described in this report was conducted by the RAND Center on Quality Policing.

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