King5 journalist PJ Randhawa reports that diversity in the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been lacking for years. A new state law is putting pressure on the agency to attract and retain cadets of color.
WSP data shows the majority of state troopers are white men. Department of Justice and state data found diversity in the state patrol has declined. Compared with 2003, the patrol now employs fewer Black, Asian and Native American troopers.
A new state law looks to change the narrative. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that puts pressure on WSP to attract and retain cadets of color. The measure will cost the state patrol $1.3 million. It includes the commission of an independent study into retention and recruitment efforts in addition to setting agency benchmarks and providing legislative oversight of WSP’s progress.
THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC AND BEGINS AT RECRUITING
A 2021 state study into WSP’s retention and recruitment practices showed cadets of color were failing the agency’s psychological evaluation at a higher rate than their white counterparts. And there’s a lot at stake – if you flunk the psychological evaluation, you’re out.
According to data compiled in the report, 36% of white candidates didn’t pass WSP’s psychological evaluation compared to 44% of Latinx candidates, 67% of Asian candidates and 60% of Black candidates who didn’t pass the psychological examination.
Dr. Daniel Clark, WSP’s longtime psychologist, was the man responsible for administering the tests. Clark faced criticism from lawmakers after that 2021 state report showed candidates of color were rejected from the patrol at high rates. The report found, “Every focus group and multiple key executives reported concerns of bias in the psychological evaluation process.”
Clark kept his job. He’s been reassigned at the state patrol and now deals with counseling and training.
THE WSP’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY
Last year, WSP announced they had signed onto the 30×30 pledge, a nationwide effort within police departments to increase representation in all ranks and promote gender equity. According to the WSP, “The ultimate goal of the 30×30 Initiative is to reach 30 percent of women in police recruit classes by 2030 and to ensure policing agencies are truly representative of the jurisdiction the agency serves. While 30×30 focuses on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender.”
According to a statement provided by WSP, high vacancy rates across all law enforcement agencies have increased competition for candidates of color. They say they continue to modify their hiring and training practices to eliminate any unintended barriers for candidates of color.
My opinion? I agree with recent studies showing that diversity in law enforcement may improve policing. Compared to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers made far fewer stops and arrests — and used force less often — especially against Black civilians. Also, female officers used less force than their male counterparts. Apparently, de-escalation tactics and a decrease in unnecessary pullovers benefits everyone.
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