U.S. law enforcement agencies aim to recruit qualified candidates, facing challenges when seeking to enhance demographic diversity among officers. In the case of women, they are shown to have significant competencies when it comes to effective policing, helping to restore confidence in the police or obtain high rates of case resolution, but with a lower use of force.
The goal of the study was to understand how police agencies use online recruitment materials to recruit female officers. The research assessed the prevalence of text, images, and videos featuring women, as well as individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also examined content related to recruitment and the job itself, employing thematic analysis to comprehend the representation of police and diversity.
The police recruitment materials highlighted various characteristics that acted as deterrents for women considering applying to the police force. Police agencies do not provide consistent messages about diversity, resources for women, or support for work/life balance. In addition, differences were found between the police with the highest and lowest percentages of female presence, with inconsistent and often contradictory messages.
The document stresses that greater representation of women in law enforcement agency positions better reflects the social diversity of the communities they serve. Along these lines, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that agencies strive to create a workforce that contains a wide range of diversity based on race, gender, language, life experience and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with society.
Despite the benefits previously identified, female representation in police organisations has lagged behind that of other historically underrepresented demographic groups. For example, although the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the police reached 27% during 2013, women represented only 12%.
This research concludes that public recruitment material is quite deficient when it comes to recruiting women for the police. People make employment decisions based on imperfect information, as job applicants have limited knowledge of an organisation and a job until they are hired and fill the position. In the context of this study, jobseekers must infer what a job and an organisation are like from the limited information available to them through channels such as websites, social networks and personal contacts. Recruitment materials should have a stronger value for people with less pre-existing information about the organisation.
Although there is awareness of the obstacles to entering a police career, there is limited understanding of the content and messaging employed by police agencies on their websites and social media accounts. This study contributes to the existing literature by quantifying and describing current practices and providing recommendations for aligning current practices with evidence-based practices. To this end, they set out to answer the following questions:
1. How is diversity described in agency recruitment materials?
2. How do agencies address barriers and facilitate access to law enforcement careers?
3. What themes do police agencies use to describe a career in law enforcement?
4. How do the above characteristics differ between agencies that employ more or fewer women?
To answer these questions, a content analysis was conducted of online recruitment materials from a purposively selected set of agencies, which varied by location, agency type and size, and proportion of female police officers.