Police recruiting changes could increase diversity

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At a recent meeting with local community groups July 14, Tamiko Stanley, the city’s equal employment opportunity officer, announced a series of changes to police officer recruiting aimed at increasing diversity on the Pittsburgh police force.

“I think this is an exciting time to be a part of recruitment. I hope all of these changes will really bring about the changes we want to see,” Stanley said. “We really had the mayor stick his neck out to make changes to increase diversity.”

Recruitingrot
CITY EMPLOYMENT—From left: Paula Kellerman, Tamiko Stanley, Sylvia Robinson and Nadia Schweizer are members of the department of personnel and civil service commission for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

According to Stanley, large portions of diverse applicants are lost during the initial written test and interview phase of the application process. In an effort to change this, a member of the community will be added to the interview panel of police officers through a partnership with the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network.

“The application process will not only be commanders making the decision. There will be a minister from the community on each panel,” Stanley said. “That interview score now has the potential to be better. There’s the potential for them to be higher on the list.”

In another effort to increase diversity in police officer recruiting, the city will be partnering with the Community College of Allegheny County to provide actual test training for the initial written test.

“We need to ramp up recruitment. We lose so much diversity to no shows and people not staying engaged because police hiring is a long process. We lose a lot of females and minorities because of no shows to the written test,” Stanley said. “One of their complaints is ‘I need a job so if someone calls me today, I’m taking it.’”

Stanley said a lot of diverse applicants are also lost because of the long application process and extended delays between different steps in the process.

Following the initial written test and interview, applicants must take a reading test and physical test. Next they are subjected to a psychological examination.

The final step in the process is a review by the police chief and assistant chiefs through which they choose potential officers and eliminate others. This final step of the process can be very subjective, but another change to recruiting will be to create a standard form for presenting information on applicants.

“We need to keep people engaged. We need people to take advantage of all of the resources. We do information sessions in the community so people do get one on one time with the chief,” Stanley said. “We recruit, as far as materials, in all of the surrounding areas of the city, but as far as our focus, we target the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. This year’s theme is ‘Be a part of the solution.’ You have the power to make a difference.”

City officials gave community representatives ample time to comment on the hiring procedure and to make suggestions for other reforms. Among their suggestions was offering an online tracking system for candidates to monitor their progress in the application process.

“We really need the community to help with this. We’re going to be calling community groups to the table,” said Ed Gainey, coordinator of economic development. “We’re talking about changing things that have always been. We have to evolve.”

However, after several calls by the Courier, Joanna Doven, press secretary for the mayor’s office, would not release data on the number or percentage of African-American police officers on the force or in the last few graduating classes.

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