Skip to main content

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer Delivers Remarks at Forum on Law Enforcement Recruitment in the 21st Century


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Ron [Davis], for that introduction and for inviting me to join you for today’s conversations on how to increase and maintain diversity in our nation’s police and sheriff’s departments.

Echoing Neil’s earlier remarks on behalf of the administration, I would like to begin by recognizing the COPS Office (Office of Community Oriented Policing Services) for their tireless work in supporting the implementation of the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, including those focused on achieving diversity in law enforcement recruitment.  The COPS Office has an extensive history of working with the field to advance public safety through community policing, including resources that have provided practical approaches for creating positive, productive relations with all members of the multi-racial, multi-ethnic public.

And on behalf of the Attorney General (AG) and Deputy Attorney General, I want to express deep gratitude and appreciation for the incredibly hard work done by everyone in this room – law enforcement, community leaders and advocates and civil rights organizations – to build lasting collaborative relationships between local police and the public.  We recognize your vital efforts to ensure that all components of a community – including both the public and peace officers – treat one another fairly and justly, and are invested in maintaining public safety in an atmosphere of mutual respect. 

And I’m sure that everyone here today recognizes the importance of having a police department or sheriff’s office that reflects the diversity of their community, and how that plays an important part in building trust and strengthening relationships. 

In fact, many of you have no doubt heard Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s impassioned plea to the public inviting them to be a part of the solution when he called on them to apply to be police officers.  And, although it is too early to know the results of that call and whether it will produce a diverse pool of candidates, the Dallas Police Department has received 812 applications since Chief Brown made his call to service following the devastating shooting of five Dallas officers by a gunman on July 7. 

But the bigger question, of course, is – how do we get there?  How do we get our police departments to truly reflect the communities they serve?  What changes do we need to make to our recruitment practices in the 21st century, especially in terms of attracting young adults to a career in law enforcement?  And how can we be more creative in our approach to recruitment and employ the public, business and civic communities to help? 

Of course, there are no one-size-fit-all solutions, but I offer some examples of creative efforts undertaken by some law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address these important issues.

Recently, for example, to address a difficulty in recruiting for its highway patrol officer, particularly for female candidates, the Kansas Highway Patrol began a social media campaign targeted at female recruitment by actively engaging in tweeting as part of recruitment.  The agency released the Twitter hashtag #GirlCopsAreAwesome and sent out tweets of female troopers with the caption “heroes don’t wear capes, we become troopers.”

Here at the DOJ, the federal law enforcement components have developed targeted recruitment programs, including those aimed at pipeline development, including at historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to broaden applicant pools.  Additionally, the AG’s Diversity Management Advisory Council (which includes the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) Acting Administrator and senior leader from FBI) has implicit bias draft curriculum for managers and supervisors that includes implicit bias information related to recruitment, hiring, retention, professional development and promotion.

In addition, I’d like to highlight that the COPS Office offers several publications and guides on best practices related to recruiting, to offer suggestions for ensuring that agencies cast a wide net in hiring to obtain maximum pools of diverse candidates – diversity of all kinds: socio-economic, gender, cultural – as well which factors to consider to attract the best possible candidates.

These aren’t easy questions to address, of course, but I’m certain that the different perspectives and ideas of everyone in this room will help to build a roadmap that leads the way to increased diversity in our nation’s law enforcement agencies.  So with that, I’ll close now and let this important work get underway.

And once again, on behalf of the Department of Justice, thank you for attending and for all that you do to bring about positive change for your communities.

Updated August 31, 2016