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IU Northwest experts help tackle a pressing issue: diversity in PD ranks

SPEA colleagues partner with alumnus to increase pool of qualified applicants

Tuesday Feb 23, 2016

One of Indiana University Northwest’s most accomplished graduates, Griffth Police Chief Greg Mance, maintains his close relationship with his former colleagues in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Doing so pays off in many respects, he has found, much to the benefit of the entire community.

Mance, at the helm of the Griffith Police Department and a 1999 criminal justice graduate, was one of the first to collaborate with Associate Professor Joseph Ferrandino on the Regional Crime Mapping Project and Northwest Indiana Public Safety Consortium, initiatives which transformed the way police departments delegate their resources and work together across boundaries.

Committed to regional priorities

Now, in hopes of surmounting another obstacle at the Griffith PD, Mance once again approached Ferrandino as well as his former professor Ellen Szarleta, now head of the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE), with the objective of increasing the diversity of his predominantly male, Caucasian police force. Mance says a better reflection of demographics in the communities the department serves is needed to increase trust.

“Non-diverse police departments are a nationwide issue that plagues the progression of all encompassing health communities,” Mance said in a letter to Chancellor William J. Lowe.

Specifically, Mance said that poor minority preparedness for the testing process is one of the big problems. That’s where IU Northwest offered a solution and Ferrandino stepped in to help coach the applicants on written and oral tests they’d have to complete within a month. He conducted workshops to help prepare them and offered them mock interviews to help them refine their skills.

Preparedness leads to more qualified applicants

“The plan involved a series of workshops that would provide all applicants the opportunity to engage in seminars that would prepare them for the physical, written and interview testing process that is unique to the law enforcement community,” Mance later told Lowe in a letter of thanks for IU Northwest’s contribution.

The applicants also received help with the agility standards part of the application process. The Griffith YMCA stepped in to help the department with that.

Mance reported that since the training program was implemented, the number of total applicants nearly doubled; the number of female applicants quadrupled; and minority applicants increased seven-fold. In the end, the hiring eligibility list, which consists of 15 applicants, consists of two females and five minority males.

Mance said that because of the efforts of CURE and the SPEA faculty as well as the Griffith YMCA, “a probable solution to a nationwide issue has been developed and the GPD will become a more diverse and better serving police agency.”

A model for others

Largely due to the success of this initiative, the East Chicago Police Department is now next in line to duplicate this process with their applicants.

Retiring East Chicago Chief Mark Becker said in a recent NWI Times article that he hopes to accomplish diversity, but his first goal is to reduce intimidation about test and help applicants realize their full potential with reduced anxiety about process.

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