The Chicago Police Reform Essays V (of VIII)

Part V: Diversity in Policing

Approximately two years ago, I was of the belief that I could still fix policing from the inside, if I were the Police Chief. I applied to the superintendent position for the Chicago Police Department. Part of that application involved answering essay questions. I am posting the answers to those questions, here, in an eight part series of eight minute reads, one each day. I had not yet evolved to the place where I am with the formulation of the Civilian-Led Policing framework, but there is value here in the development of the thoughts leading up to it. Some more on that is explained in a piece titled, We Know How to Fix Policing in America. We Do.

Find the rest of the series here: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV

Do you believe it necessary to have greater diversity in the makeup of the Department’s sworn personnel?

If yes, how would you increase the percentage of sworn members from under-represented groups?

Specifically address your strategy for encouraging persons of color to join the force in times of community distrust.

There is little doubt that greater diversity in the makeup of a department’s sworn personnel is a beneficial necessity. Education plays a significant role in increasing diversity in an agency. Education causes cultural change. It is the cultural shift within the organization that makes the real differences, individual programs have proven to be unreliable (Martı´n-Alca´zar, Romero-Ferna´ndez, & Sa´nchez-Gardey, 2012, p. 511). The benefits of diversity need to be understood as well as how diversity plays into policing specifically, not towards ideological goals, instead of towards a stronger police department.

Benefits of Diversity

Policing may well be the most difficult occupation to make amends for lack of previous diversity, and that seems to be the wall that most police leaders are hitting. The system has favored the majority for so long, through dramatic disadvantages for minorities, that the goal of community representation feels insurmountable in police circles. To benefit from cognitive, affective and communicational effects of diversity, organizations need to promote inclusiveness, collectivism, and appreciation of individual differences. (Martı´n-Alca´zar, Romero-Ferna´ndez, & Sa´nchez-Gardey, 2012, p. 523). There are easy to see areas of diversity, the primary dimensions of diversity, age, ethnicity, gender, mental/physical abilities, race, and sexual orientation. Also, there are not so easy to see areas of diversity which advantage an agency, the secondary dimensions of diversity, communication style, education, family status, military experience, organization role / level, religion, first language, geographic location, income, work experience, work style, and others (Wood Jr., 2012, pp. D-89/90). The benefits are found in bringing all of those dimensions to the community to best serve their goals.

Achieving Balance

Balance may be an odd word to use, as I recognize that much has been dramatically done to minorities, especially black people merely for possessing a black body, equally dramatic opposite responses are called for, as these conditions may very well demand dramaticly different answers. During these times of, deserved, community distrust, we must be introspective and take outside of the box risks because it is clear that we cannot afford to not take some risks fighting for diversity. There is no reason to not be more reflective of what our society really is, a mix of various cultures that are best when integrated, not assimilated. Embrace diversity.

Tactical ways to both improve policing efficacy and subconsciously support a culture of diversity are; changing perspectives by placing officers in closer proximity to members of the community and thereby enhancing their knowledge of the area; focusing on preventing deterioration of neighborhoods by police paying closer attention to fear-inducing characteristics of neighborhoods; maintaining that the most critical element of community policing is the problem-solving efforts in which the police and communities participate; proactive mechanisms for determining the needs of the public — surveys and community advisory groups; and striving, via community policing, for officers to be more equitable in their relationships with minority community (Wood Jr., 2012). Changes that break from the established culture that are simple, but would make profound shifts should also be considered. Relaxing uniform standards are one of those, free of expense, to be more inclusive because we have seen that by no means does uniform in policing mean uniform in appearance. It is about being positively identified as police. Implementing diversity is something that team leaders must embrace to integrate the benefits of higher diversity and that all levels of management open themselves up to change when the differences in goal orientation present themselves because people with different experiences can provide perspectives which conflict with management preconceptions (Russo, 2012, p. 138). There is no reason to be afraid of changes like this. There is no reason why hijabs, dreads, twists, natural hair, beards, tattoos, and so forth cannot be adapted into police culture. All over the world, these differences are accepted because of the cultures involved, but if the culture of America is to be one of inclusion, which must apply to those empowered to police the community.

We know the vision, to get there, “motion leadership” that moves the officers, agency, and systems is required. This concept is not limited to cultural diversity, it is something needed for the entire reformation. To do this, we must meet four criteria:

(1) Motivate people to engage in the outset;

(2) help them learn from wrong paths and blind alleys;

(3) use the group; and

(4) do all of this on a very large scale (wholesale reform) (Fullan, 2013, p. 66).

This is change knowledge. We already understand a lot of it. We are working on something new, and it can be hard to have confidence in the unknown, but change knowledge has been around for a long time and lessons have been learned about how to put something new into practice. The three pillars to this achievement are standards, assessment, and pedagogy (Fullan, 2013, p. 34). Building off of this knowledge and establishing the standards with diversity, sets the stage for the wholesale reformation.

Michael Wood Jr. is a police management scholar who after spending a career in the USMC and Baltimore Police Department, took to dismantling the blue wall of silence and creating the pathway to reform; a model called Civilian-Led Policing. His fight for justice has included leading the historic Veterans for Standing Rock action in December of 2016, listening to the front lines of Black Lives Matter, opposing money in politics, and elevating the voices of others. You can find Michael in hundreds of media appearances, from HBO’s Fixing the System documentary with President Obama, to The Joe Rogan Experience, to published opinion pieces in The Guardian and Baltimore Sun, and everything in-between, where he furthers the discussion on criminal justice systems and institutions, and the needs of society.

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iMemberTimes is the digital newsprint of iMemberMedia. We are open to submissions and new writers.


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Amnesty International. (2015). Deadly force: Police use of lethal force in the United States. New York, NY: Amnesty International Publication.

Barnes, B. D. (2012). Confronting the one-man wolf pack: Adapting law enforcement and prosecution responses to the threat of lone wolf terrorism. Boston University Law Review, 92(5), 1614–1662.

Brucato, B. (2015). Policing made visible: Mobile technologies and the importance of point of view. Surveillance & Society, 13(3), 455–473.

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Fullan, M. (2013). Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy, and change knowledge. Toronto: Pearson.

Hughes, F., & Andre, L. B. (2007, October). Problem officer variables and early-warning systems. Retrieved from The Police Chief:

Loyens, K. (2013). Why police officers and labour inspectors (do not) blow the whistle. Policing, 36(1), 27–50.

Martı´n-Alca´zar, F., Romero-Ferna´ndez, P. M., & Sa´nchez-Gardey, G. (2012). Transforming human resource management systems to cope with diversity. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(4), 511–531.

Najdowski, C. J., L., B. B., & Goff. (2015). Stereotype threat and racial differences in citizens’ experiences of police encounters. Law and Human Behavior, 39(5), 463– 477.

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Edited by Dr. Michael Wood Jr., an internationally recognized public safety expert, and scholar of police management.

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Dr. Michael Wood Jr.

Dr. Michael Wood Jr.

USMC, BPD(ret), author “The Business of Policing”

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