When I started my law enforcement career in 1978, the first two women were hired by my department for regular patrol assignments. News of this unique hire covered the front page of the local news paper; literally from top to bottom. As these two pioneers proved themselves, efforts were made to hire more women, but recruiting wasn’t easy since before that time women were not ever considered for uniformed patrol jobs. Eventually, law enforcement figured out that in order to attract women to the job, agencies needed to present role models and to target their recruitment to women’s groups where likely candidates might be. The same strategy can be effective for recruiting LGBT employees.
There are, however, a few essential things that must be done before posting recruitment fliers. By and large, law enforcement still has a bad reputation for being homophobic and unwelcoming of out gay people, especially gay men. While this may not be a fair generalization, it is nevertheless the current reality. Agencies can begin to change this perception by taking a few key actions.
1. Prospective LGBT applicants want to know that their employment is protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This requires at the very least a published discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, a local ordinance, or ideally a state law.
2. Applicants can be made to feel welcome and encouraged to apply to an agency that also includes LGBT people in it’s mission statement or values. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department offers an ideal model statement that includes not tolerating homophobia within its organization. Agency leaders should include LGBT in the same conversations that appreciate race, nationality, ethnicity, and gender.
3. Agency executives must demonstrate a sincere desire to recruit “out” LGBT employees. This desire must be communicated clearly and regularly through the ranks to those individual employees charged with recruiting and hiring new employees. This also means that everyone involved in the hiring process, including background investigators and psychologists, must be committed to this effort. Homophobia can be hidden in biased decision making that weeds-out LGBT applicants for reasons not connected to sexual orientation.
Once these initial organizational changes are made, recruiters will have the tools they need to go out into the community and target LGBT populations.
The initial recruitment effort will involve changing the stereotype about law enforcement’s lack of interest and support for LGBT employees. This is done simply by talking with LGBT groups, sharing the agency policies and practices described above, and showing a sincere interest in attracting qualified LGBT people. Ideally, existing LGBT law enforcement employees will serve as live role models and as evidence that an LGBT person can be successful in the agency.
Like all other targeted recruitment efforts, recruitment should include high schools, colleges, and community events. For the recruitment of LGBT applicants, recruiters should seek out high school gay straight alliance groups, LGBT youth centers, and high school gay student clubs. These groups can typically be found by searching the Internet or by contact the local LGBT center. Visit these groups and talk about law enforcement career opportunities. Speak directly about the organization’s desire to have “out” LGBT employees.
Another excellent place to recruit is a local and regional gay pride festivals. Invest in a both and have personnel there just like you would for any other type of community event. Have informational fliers that speak specifically about the organization’s desire to hire “out” LGBT employees and include evidence that the work place is safe from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Remember that it make take a few times to be present at these events before perceptions change, so be persistent. A regular presence and consistent message will create the change in perception needed to attract LGBT applicants.
There are a variety of LGBT publications in which agencies could consider advertising career opportunities. For example, in the California Bay Area, the Bay Area Reporter and North Bay Bohemian both reach large LGBT populations. The Advocate is a national magazine that could reach a very broad audience. There are also many LGBT law enforcement associations that would share career opportunities. Click on Organizations at the top of this page for links to the ones we know about.
It really is as simple as reaching out to the LGBT community and talking sincerely about wanting to include LGBT people into the ranks of law enforcement. Actions of course speak louder than words, so take advantage of every opportunity to fly the agency’s rainbow flag. Participate and be visible in LGBT community events and venues. And finally, reach out for help and suggestions. We are happy to help agencies with more specific questions. Click on Contact Us at the top of this page and send us a note with your questions.