|Office of Community
Oriented Policing Services
U.S. Department of Justice
Bending Granite or Curving Wood: Changing Police Culture by Recruiting and Hiring for Service
One of the most difficult challenges in law enforcement may be that of changing the police culture, "It is like trying to bend granite," said Dr. David A. Harris, Balk Professor of Law and Values, University of Toledo College of Law, Ohio. Drawing on the research for his book, Good Cops - The Case for Preventive Policing, Harris said that the inward-facing cultures of police departments have to change so that preventive policing can succeed. He noted that new methods of recruitment and hiring present the best opportunities to change a department's culture over time, somewhat like the slow process of carving wood into a curved shape. Recruits who are oriented toward service, are rooted in the communities they serve, and are dedicated to police work that stresses integrity and can help move police departments into a service-oriented future.
As an example of change, Harris cited St. Paul, Minnesota, where the police department's new method of screening recruits focuses on personal qualities that the community is seeking in the officers who protect and serve them such as courage, good judgment, honesty, responsibility, commitment to the community, communication skills, tolerance, compassion, creativity, respect, enthusiasm, and self-motivation. In another example, the Indianapolis, Indiana Police Department developed an "Everyday Heroes" campaign using the department's strong connections to community organizations to double the number of minority recruits. They did so by inviting potential applicants to a Virtual Academy in which they could see police work first-hand and the variety of positions within the department such as their K-9 unit. Indianapolis Police Department also offered tutoring sessions to help applicants with the physical agility test as well as the written test and interviews. The number of increased minority recruits indicated that these programs were effective and are leading to a more diverse agency.