The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a comprehensive report Wednesday examining law enforcement hiring, recruitment, and retention policies with the aim of increasing diversity in police departments.
The report–“Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement“–highlighted barriers to diversity within police departments, such as “the use of criminal background checks” which the researchers found “is likely to disproportionately impact racial minority applicants.”
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The report also found that U.S. citizenship requirements “may prevent a considerable number of racial and ethnic minorities – many of whom have valuable foreign language skills – from being hired by law enforcement agencies.”
The report found that in those department’s studied, African Americans were underrepresented in 60 percent of the departments, Latinos were underrepresented in 41 percent, and Asian Americans were underrepresented in 31 percent.
In regards to criminal background checks the report stated that they “have also highlighted that the use of criminal background checks, which are a regular part of the screening process for many agencies, is likely to disproportionately impact racial minority applicants since, for a variety of reasons, individuals from those communities are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system.”
The report suggests that “excluding applicants regardless of the nature of the underlying offense, or how much time has passed since an offense occurred, or without any consideration of whether the candidate has changed in the intervening period, can be a significant – and unwarranted – barrier.”
The report also argued that residency and citizenship requirements can limit underrepresented communities’ presence in law enforcement and they should be considered by local agencies, even though federal law enforcement has a citizenship requirement.
On the hiring of women in law enforcement, according to the report, “research has shown that physical tests may have a significant and unnecessary impact on female applicants when they lack a corresponding benefit or job-related need.”