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Law Enforcement Agencies Take Part In Diversity Dialogue

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Deborah Shaar
/
KMUW
Law enforcement officials from around south-central Kansas lead Tuesday's diversity dialogue.

On Tuesday, leaders from south-central Kansas’ law enforcement agencies gathered in Wichita to participate in a seminar that focused on hiring practices to help increase diversity.

The U.S. Justice Department sponsored the seminar, calling it a “Diversity Dialogue.”

The agency’s research found that people in underrepresented communities often have a lack of trust in law enforcement and don’t know about police career opportunities.

Those factors, and others, become barriers to police recruiting and hiring efforts.

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Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW
WSU Professor of Community Justice Michael Birzer at Tuesday's event.

Michael Birzer, professor of community justice and director of the School of Community Affairs at Wichita State University, said police can overcome those challenges through marketing and outreach efforts.

"You have to look at the communities you are going after, and you can’t sit back and think that they are going to come to you because it doesn’t work that way, particularly with minority communities," Birzer said. "You have to market your strategy and then go after your target group that you want in policing."

Birzer said another strategy is for law enforcement to take a grassroots approach to getting involved in the community to reach people from diverse populations.

"I was told in a focus group that you don’t need all the fancy advertisements," he said. "All you have to do is send your recruiters, the chief of police, the sheriff to the local barber shop and I guarantee you they will refer three or four young men for police service."

Acting U.S. Attorney for Kansas Tom Beall says community policing and outreach in underrepresented communities results in more communication, builds trust and sparks more interest in police professions.

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Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW
Acting U.S. Attorney for Kansas Tom Beall.

"I think, particularly in the recruiting area, I think you want to look at what are the underrepresented communities and what are we doing proactively to reach them and to make ourselves an attractive opportunity for employment," Beall said. "I think what a lot of people find is that they are sort of in a passive mode--kind of waiting for them to come forward-- and I think there’s more proactive activity that can be done."

Birzer said retention efforts, such as mentoring programs, are just as important as recruiting and hiring practices.

The seminar is part of a national initiative to increase the diversity in law enforcement.

The Justice Department released its Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement Report earlier this year to help local police overcome barriers that inhibit diversity of their workforce and to provide a resource of promising practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining officers.

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Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

 
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