Tacoma Police Department seeks input from young minority adults to improve diversity

TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma Police are turning to young minority adults to help them understand how to better serve their neighborhoods.

Loretta Cool, public information officer for Tacoma Police Department, said the agency wants to increase inclusiveness and diversity with more officers who reflect the communities they serve. However, not many women and men of color apply to join the police force.

As part of the department's research efforts, officers are partnering with Hemisphere Design & Marketing to improve recruiting strategies and reach more diverse applicants. TPD and Hemisphere Design & Marketing will conduct a focus group Thursday, Nov. 21, geared toward young minority adults ages 18 to 35.

The goal is to learn how to effectively encourage people in underrepresented communities to apply for careers in law enforcement. This is part of the department's continued effort in building stronger relations between the community and police.

All of the slots had been filled, police said Thursday morning.

Peace Community Center is a non-profit organization rooted in Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood. It provides educational services for students in grades 2 through 12, offering students connections to post-secondary opportunities like college, military and employment.

“It’s important to us and our mission to identify students who are underrepresented in higher education, students who are underrepresented in the STEM and employment opportunities and making sure our students have early access to the resources, the education, the leaders that are working in those fields and for them to see other leaders that look like them in those roles,” said L. Denice Randle, executive director of Peace Community Center.

Randle said they are happy to host TPD’s conversation about inclusiveness, since the goal of the focus group will discuss a lot of key points the program teaches children.

“We’re letting our students know just because you’re underrepresented in these fields, in these areas, doesn’t mean that you are not a leader, that you don’t have the skillset and that you are not able to have access to these different opportunities,” said Randle.

The executive director said TPD’s conversation with young minority adult’s in the community is vital. She said it is an opportunity for their voices to be heard and help reshape the face of law enforcement.

“The narratives that we are hearing nationally, and the experiences that people have across the Tacoma community—it’s important that we have individuals who share our own cultural background and experiences who come to support us in times of need. Someone who we feel we can relate to, someone who can understand our different backgrounds and experiences that we go through on a day to day basis,” said Randle.

She also explained why the focus group is more than just identifying barriers that are preventing candidates from applying for careers in the police force.

“I hope the Tacoma Police Department will really think about what is the strategic plan for the health of the individuals that are coming into the organization. So, one piece of the work is hearing the voices, identifying the barriers and really putting into place a strategic plan. But the key is really having a long-term strategic plan for not just the recruitment of the individuals, but the retention and making sure that it’s a quality experience. Especially for agencies that traditionally are underrepresented,” said Randle.

“I’m just super grateful to the Tacoma Police Department for recognizing that there’s opportunity to grow in that area and then to solicit feedback from the community,” said Randle.