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Amid Personnel Shortage, Police Are Working to Boost Diversity

Amid a nationwide shortage of law enforcement staff, some departments are trying to increase the number of people of color and women as a solution, a move experts say could improve policing, USA Today reports. Advocates say attracting the next generation of law enforcement requires addressing historic distrust and discrimination by demonstrating that departments have made major changes in their culture, not just offering big bonuses or slashing requirements. Though hiring reportedly rebounded in 2022, agencies are losing officers faster than they can replace them and total staffing is declining, found a survey of 182 police agencies across 38 states and Washington, D.C., by the Police Executive Research Forum. Departments that previously never had to worry about filling their academies are paying attention to how they market themselves, according to Alex Johnston, co-founder of Epic Recruiting, a content creation company that works with law enforcement agencies. Johnston said when departments approach his company for help with marketing, attracting diverse candidates is often a priority.

More than 14,700 law enforcement agencies employed over 708,000 full-time sworn officers in 2020, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In local police departments, about 14% of full-time sworn officers were women, 14% were Hispanic and 12% were Black. Though experts have said diversity alone is not enough to address all of the issues in policing, some research has shown that Black and Hispanic officers make fewer arrests and use force less often than their white counterparts and female officers take those enforcement actions less often than men. Andy Saunders, CEO of New Blue, which supports officers interested in reform, said some departments are offering as much as $75,000 in signing bonuses to attract recruits. He said more money may not be enough to attract diverse candidates. One issue is that although departments want to hire more diverse candidates, young people of color may not want to join a historically predominantly white and male organization. In addition to diversity, Gen Z candidates value transparency, social justice, and civic engagement and are more likely to join a department that shares and demonstrates those values.


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