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Appreciation of Cultural Differences in The Police Force to Effective Communication

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. The Police Force
  3. History
  4. Women in the Police Force
  5. LGBTQ Community in Policing
  6. Promotional Opportunities
  7. Increasing Diversity
  8. Increasing Diverse Populations
  9. Sexual Harassment
  10. Conclusion
  11. References


Diversity is important for many reasons. It allows for a growth in acceptance while simultaneously diminishing discrimination. Additionally, the country is comprised of many different cultures, races, and ethnic groups. These differences allow for new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences. These are all very helpful to various industries but, is especially helpful to the police industry. In the essay on appreciating cultural differences to effective communication the main emphasis is on the concept of cultural diversity in the police force. Diversity in the police force will allow for officers to have a better understanding of the communities they serve which makes policing more effective and in. 

However, simply having a diverse police force doesn’t solve many of the underlying issues that still exist in the police force. While today’s police in environment is more inclusive that it has ever been by including women, members of the LGBT community, and minorities. The industry still remains a white dominated field. Minorities still do not uphold supervisory positions and still face issues such as discrimination by coworkers.

The Police Force

Historically, the police force were comprised of solely white males and were discriminatory towards women and minorities. Then in then in 1964 the Civil Rights Act forced many industries to be inclusive by outlawing discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin. However, the law is not the only thing that changed. Communities also began to become more diverse. Yet, decades after this law had been passed and the increase of diversity in the United States the Police industry continues to remains a mainly a white male dominated field. More importantly, The majority or white men sometimes do not see their minority partners as their equals.


After World War II, there has been a steady increase in the proportion in minorities in policing. Minority representation started to grow as a result of the pressure received from the black community. For example, in Chicago black citizens complained about the prejudices and the brutality received from white officers. After, 1940 black police officers increased

While black citizens were being hired into the police force they were still not treated as equals. This was shown in their ability to make arrests, work on assignments, or receive promotions. It was not uncommon for black officers to only be able to patrol and arrest only black citizens.

Therefore, if a white person committed a crime in a black neighborhood a white officer would have to be called to make the arrest. Black officers were also restricted in the type of and location of assignments. Additionally, superior officers would often manipulate their performance ratings. Later, during the many movements of the 1960s such as the civil rights and women’s movement government intervention eliminated discrimination in employment.

Having more black police officers was good until it started to lose appeal. Studies discovered that some black citizens felt that black officers were “sellouts” since police officers were viewed as an enemy at the time. Studies done by Wilkins and Williams also showed that at the time minority officers were more likely to stop other minorities. This is most likely due to the fact that many minority officers would identify with other officers than minority citizens. Today, this issue is not as prevalent as minority officers are less likely to accept discriminatory practices and double marginality is less of a problem.

Women in the Police Force

Women remain under represented in this industry as well. In the beginning, female officers were there only to aid male officers. They were restricted to by performing duties such as clerical work, supervising juveniles, being prison matrons, or dealing with family problems. In 1950, they were expanded to cover narcotics and vice investigations. The argument against allowing women to receive full police powers was that women were more likely to become irritable and were overly critical under emotional stress. They agreed that women could add value to specialized units but weren’t qualified enough to be the head of those departments.

However, in 1972 after the amendments to civil rights act these stereotypical images of women and police work were challenged. The act required the elimination of discriminatory practices in hiring and job assignment. The changes that followed the civil rights act were drastic. for example, in 1971 there were fewer than 12 policewomen in the united states but by 1972 there were almost 1,000. By 1979 the percentage of women assigned to patrol was approximately 87% in city departments serving populations larger than 50,000. then by 1986, 98% of responding departments were assigning women to not only patrol but o field-operations including special operations, and traffic assignments.

Early critics of gender diversity in policing argued that women were unable to handle the physical demands that came with policing. It was also believed that gender diversity would lead to changes in policing since females were assumed to be less aggressive, coercive, and more supporting than males. However, these claims were proven to be false by a study conducted in Washington D.C in 1976. The study included 86 newly trained policemen and women that were placed on patrol and evaluated for one year. The results from the study indicated that the two genders performed in a similar manner. The study also found that women made fewer arrests but were more efficient than men in defusing violent situations. Furthermore, women had a less-aggressive style of policing and were less likely to be charged with improper conduct. Proving that females were more than capable of performing effectively on patrol.

Another study conducted in 1975 evaluated policewomen on patrol in the St. Louis County Police Department. The first 16 women put on patrol in the country were compared with a group of 16 men who had been trained with the women officers. The results showed that the women were equally as effective as the men patrol work. It was also discovered that women were less aggressive and engaged in fewer preventive activities such as car and pedestrian stops. Surveys made by citizens also indicated that women were more responsive to their needs and handled service calls better than men.

Other studies also indicate that female officers and coercion at parity with their male counterparts. A study by Paoline and Terril found little differences in the use of coercion by the different genders. A similar study conducted by Hoffman and Hickey found that female officers used unarmed physical force during arrests at approximately the same rate as male officers. This represents a significant departure from the stereotypical belief that female officers are less able to engage in this behavior because of their gender.

LGBTQ Community in Policing

The number of women and minorities in police departments have increased consistently since the 1960s. However, another group that faces the same discrimination as women and minority groups are members of the LGBTQ community. While today there are now more openly gay officers. They still face discrimination in the work place. It was reported that 67% of LGBTQ officers were exposed to homophobic talk and 34% reported repeated harassment.

Promotional Opportunities

A study of departments with 10 or more sworn in by the National Center for Women and Policing evaluated the number of females in supervisory positions in large and rural police departments. The study found that women comprised of only 9.6 percent of supervisory positions such as lieutenant or sergeant in large agencies and only 4.6 percent in rural agencies. in top command positions such as captain women represented 7.6 and 3.4%. This shows how while the proportion of women in police departments experiences increases. The number of females in positions of power still remain low. A comparison study of 290 police departments of female supervisors showed that women only represented 2% of all supervisory levels is an improvement but, not a significant one. The promotions of minorities are less reported but advocated argue they are even more underrepresented than women in supervisory positions.

Increasing Diversity

Having a diverse police department has proven to be more effective for many reasons. One reason is that having a diverse police department can improve public relations. Theorists also suggest that departments that reflect the community they serve are more likely to be high functioning and more responsive to the needs of the community which ultimately improves relations. Additionally, police departments that are more diverse reinforce its commitment to equal power dynamics, enhance group willingness to cooperate and a more efficient use of resources.

In 2014 a series of controversial use of force incidents sparked nationwide protests. Some minority groups believe that race is the determining factor for the use of force incidents by police officers. This has led to the community distrust of law enforcement.

When members of the public believe that law enforcement agencies represent them, understand them, and respond them. Then the communities are more likely to perceive law enforcement as unbiased and fair. It deepens the trust in law enforcement and encourages public confidence. This trust is vital to defusing tension, solving crime, and creating a system where residents view law enforcement as fair. Trust also allows for laws enforcement to more effectively and safely do their job. Additionally, the more open an agency is to reform and willing to initiate cultural and systemic changes and more responsive to change the greater the trust will be. 

Many researchers have explored the concept of having a diverse workforce and its overall impact on community trust. Despite the improvements in diversity reform advocates believe that agencies use diversity to mask the need for greater police reform.

While simply having a diverse police force will not automatically spark change. It does have the ability to lead to a greater understanding of what the community wants and needs are. It can help break down the mentality that often develops among officers and makes it easier to implement reform.

It is also growing increasingly important to have because of the growing diverse populations that police officers serve. A lack of diversity will lead to many problems such as communication or language barriers and cultural barriers.

Increasing Diverse Populations

In the united states there are more than 55 million people who speak a language other than English at home. For 62% of this group, that language is Spanish. Many of these individuals have limited ability to speak or write in English. The increasing number of people who lack English proficiency means that law enforcement now have daily contact with people who do not speak English. This inability to effectively communicate can become disastrous or even deadly. Another barrier that exists is a cultural one. for example gestures can be misinterpreted. in the U.S the “A-Okay” is friendly but, means you’re worth zero in France, Belgium and Latin American countries. additionally, the thumbs up gesture which is also friendly in the U.S is the equivalent of giving he finger in many Islamic countries.

This is not the only barrier cultural differences to effective communication for the police. Many new immigrants have limited understanding of the role of police and the expectations of police during encounters. for example, in El Salvador it is customary for the driver to step out of the vehicle and approach the officer during a traffic stop. however, in the United states this is the exact opposite of what someone should do and could lead to the use of force by law enforcement. Likewise in Cambodia it is customary to keep their wallets in their socks. Therefore, when asked for their driver’s license they might reach for their sock to get their wallet. This gesture could be interpreted by law enforcement as reaching for weapon. This situation could become very dangerous if there also a language barrier.

Another example is that in many Asian cultures the eldest family member will deal with the police on behalf of the entire family. However, the eldest family member is also the least likely to know English. Therefore, law enforcement will speak to another family member but this will come across as disrespectful in Asian cultures.

These cultural and language differences are shine light of the importance of diverse police departments. Additionally, diverse police departments are more likely to inspire the communities they serve to have more community outreach, trust, and activism which are all necessary to and can’t be achieved without diversity.

Sexual Harassment

Enforcing diversity by law did not translate into automatic fair treatment from the majority. This can be seen through the number of harassment complains made by women who have joined the police force.

Every working environment has the goal of maintaining a healthy working environment free from sexual harassment for all employers. However, a male dominated police force may particularly susceptible to sexual harassment. This harassment is mainly from coworkers.. Even though Title VII of the civil rights act prohibits sexual harassment it is till experienced by many women officers. A study done by Somvade and Morash conducted that the most common form of harassment was offensive jokes or stories and that 83.% of officers reported experiencing this behavior at least once. 69.2% of officers reported that they were treated different because of their sex and 53% claimed to have experienced sexist remarks. Unwanted sexual attention was experienced by 36% and 5.1% of officers experienced subtle sexual bribery. If women officers are to gain equal treatment then sexual harassment must be taken seriously and eliminated.


It is evidently very important to make sure that police departments remain trying to reinforce the levels of diversity for many reasons. Yet, many problems still remain. Programs such as diversity training could help the issue but, agencies alone cannot solve these problems.


  • Espiritu, D. (2017). The future of diversity and police legitimacy. Journal of California Law Enforcement, 51(3), 7-14.
  • Kenneth Novak, G. C. (2017). Police and Society. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Linda S. Miller, K. M. (2014). Community Policing: Partnerships for Problem Solving. Cengage Learning.
  • Why is Cultural Diversity Important. (n.d.). Retrieved from partnerships internation:

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