Throughout the history of the United States, the ranks of police officers have been dominated by white males. As a result, the underrepresentation of minorities and women has long been a problem in policing. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act made discriminating against any individual based upon their color, sex. religion or national origin illegal. thus paving the way for more minorities and women to become police officers.
Before the implementation and enforcement of these acts, it was extremely difficult for inorities and women to get a job in policing. Experts in the field of law enforcement maintain that diversity in the workforce is In the best interest of all police departments. “The most useful measure of employment practices is the extent to which a police department reflects the composition of the community it serves” (Walker & Katz, 2011, p. 134). In the 1960’s the extreme underrepresentation ot African Americans serving as police officers contributed to the rloung of the era.
Due to the concept of affirmative action, which simply states hat when a minority group Is found to be underrepresented within an organization that organization must take steps to hire more Individuals within that minority group, and the use of hiring quotas, African Americans represent a higher number of police offcers In todays society. Hispanic and Latino officers have increased significantly in recent years. Spanish speaking officers are in high demand because of the growing number of communities in which Spanish is the primary language.
For many agencies, especially those that serve in communities with large immigrant opulations, the need for police diversity extends far beyond traditional groups. Wth the hiring of Alice Stebbins Wells in 1910, women Joined the ranks of police officers (O’Connor, 2012). In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s roles for women within the police force began to change; due partly to the before mentioned Civil Rights Act but also because of individual efforts of policewomen. An increase in the number of policewomen has improved relations between police and the community.
This is partly due to the fact that policewomen are less likely to use excessive force and ecause these offcers are better able to diffuse violent situations due to better communication skills when responding to domestic house calls. Today, more than ever, police departments are looking to till their ranks with a core ot officers who represent the populations In which they serve. Most officers use discretion In what they choose to do with an Individual violating the law.
An officer may choose to write a warning, make an arrest, or Just let It pass; this Is a huge part of whata police offcer must learn to do. A few factors involved in this decision making process range rom crime factors, victim factors, environmental factors, departmental factors, and suspects behavior, or the officer characteristics. The views of one officer related to crime may vary widely from that of another officer, allowing for a different response depending on the responding officers.
While some may view a kid smoking a Joint as just a nuisance and confiscate the drugs, others will actually see this as a more serious offense, leading to an arrest, or a citation being served to the individual. Who the victim is plays a role also, such as in domestic violence. While the victims are known associates, or relatives/family, the officers tend to use more discretion on making an arrest, and when trying to deescalate the situation, whereas if the incident involves complete strangers, the event tends to be taking more seriously.
Also a factor can be the environment in which the officer is working, such as if it is an officers home community, or somewhere that the officer spends much less time. Different communities may view things as more serious than others, and this will play a role in how the local law enforcement might handle the situation. Also closely related to that is departmental factors, which is Just how the department issues the guidance to officers.
Some officers may view certain types of crimes as more serious than the department, and because of this must follow the standard operating procedure (sop) for the department, such as in domestic cases at least one party must be removed or arrested from the scene, while for others the sole purpose is to deescalate the situation and leave the premises. Also related to departmental factor, is the peer factor. Officers wish to be seen among their peers as someone who takes he Job seriously, and follows the norms set by the other more veteran officers, and most likely changing the rookie officer’s previous view to more of the officers around him.
Also, another factor that many officers tend to look at is how the suspect behaves when approached. If their attitude reflects a “screw this” type of tone, then the officer may tend to come down harder on the individual, using full power under law as punishment. The other side of this is if the offender is completely civil, can admit their wrong doings, understands what is going on, and shows the officer espect and understanding, then occasionally the officer may decide to give a verbal warning instead of the original intent of arrest, or issuing a ticket.