Hiring Homegrown Officers: Join The Discussion


By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell

The Cleveland Community Police Commission recently hosted a public workgroup meeting to review several areas of ongoing concern with implementing community policing in Cleveland neighborhoods. 

According to the team, a general distrust of the police and holding police accountable, makes it difficult to reach those who would most benefit from having community policing in their areas. Police being more proactive about hiring officers who are from the communities they serve is regularly a part of the discussion of finding solutions. 

Billy L. Sharp, President of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland Guild, said, “It’s really hard to have somebody who was raised in a different environment come to an urban environment and police those people. They come from a somewhat different upbringing, so things that we may be used to, they may think are out of sorts, so it heightens a situation…just not understanding the people that you’re policing. I’d like to see [more] candidates from us, those who are being raised in our community, so we can police our own people.”

“You can’t get the right behavior from the wrong people,” said former Cleveland Police Sergeant Charmin Leon, now with the Center for Policing Equity. She told the story of meeting a white detective in Atlanta who “respected the dignity of the people” despite not having been raised in a diverse community. “He was the right person.”

“Who really can best fill a uniform? Who can be entrusted with the public’s trust? Who should wear a badge and a gun and be able to make a life and death decision? They are exceptional individuals. I want us to get to the point where if you see one of our men and women of the services – police, fire, EMS – on the street, there’s no question they are an exceptional individual.”

Leon noted that behavioral-based interviewing has now been implemented as part of the hiring process for CPD. 

Ryan M. Walker, the Senior Policy Analyst for the Commission, added another perspective, that research in the subject shows “diversity alone does not change your police department.”

“Without addressing the cultural and systemic problems within the organization as a whole, you can bring in anybody you want to and there’s a good chance they will adopt bad behaviors.”

He brought up NASA, and how organizational reviews after both space shuttle disasters showed it was the culture of the organization, not the talent that they brought in, that ultimately led to those accidents.

“Bringing good people into a culture that has not fully changed is only one component of it,” he said. “If the change isn’t there to support those individuals to thrive and be allowed to express dissent and bring some new ideas, then we’ll be right back where we started from.”

What are your thoughts on hiring officers who are from the communities they serve, do you think it’s necessary, or can just hiring “the right people” be enough? Do you agree that a bad culture can ruin good officers?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments!