The Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said increasing diversity within the agency is a priority, as recruitment begins for the agency in November of this year and, according to WPR, almost 90% of Wisconsin troopers are white men.
This, Burrell said, needs to change.
“When you look at diversity in law enforcement or anything you want to look at as a state law enforcement agency or as a law enforcement agency, you want that agency to reflect the community in which they serve,” Burrell said. “We’re looking right now. If you’re looking at our department, we do have women. We do have minorities. But our numbers don’t proportionately reflect what the makeup of our state is when it comes to that diversity.”
Burrell is the first African-American State Patrol Superintendent in Wisconsin.
Burrell told WPR he was specifically hoping to do targeted recruiting in areas such as Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and the Wausau area, with the hopes of reaching minority communities in those areas and potentially recruiting those looking to get into law enforcement.
“With every opportunity, we have to showcase the state patrol and discuss recruitment, we highlight our interest in being more representative of the general population,” Burrell said. “The efforts that we put into [that are] reflected in many of the State Patrol public education outreach materials that we provide as well.”
According to an article from Rasmussen College, diversity can make law enforcement jobs easier because citizens are more naturally inclined to trust people with whom they share some commonality.
Pamela Oliver, professor emerita of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, said since the 1960s, there has been more of an attempt to better include women and minorities in police forces.
“That’s happened in a lot of places, [and] some police forces have remained staunchly white now and others have diversified … But it’s always in the larger context of what the structures are,” Oliver said.
Oliver added she hadn’t done a systematic review of the literature, but her knowledge and reading noted that sometimes, the larger structures provide context into the operations of a force or patrol.
Burrell discussed the difficulties in the hiring process.
“We make every attempt to make sure that we’re diversifying in our efforts of recruiting,” Burrell said. “Law enforcement across this nation is challenged with … [finding] individuals who are interested in this field. It takes a special type of person, similar to military service. It has to appeal to someone who enjoys a challenge like giving back to their community, their state or nation, and who [finds] satisfaction in serving and protecting the public.”
According to a report from the US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, there are a number of barriers for minorities when applying for law enforcement jobs.
These barriers include that strained relations with law enforcement may keep people from underrepresented communities from applying, the reputation of some law enforcement agencies may keep applicants from underrepresented communities from the field, and that individuals from underrepresented communities may not be aware of career opportunities within these agencies.
Miller noted that the State Patrol offered a variety of career paths. The State Patrol has positions including commercial motor vehicle inspectors, drone and fixed-wing aircraft pilots, K-9 officers and crash reconstruction experts, Miller said.
Miller said the State Patrol is always seeking a variety of cadets and training is paid for.
“The State Patrol encourages people from all educational and cultural backgrounds to apply,” Miller said. “No law enforcement experience is required. People accepted as cadets into the State Patrol Academy … are provided room and board during the paid, six-month training process.”
Miller said that under a recent change, those hired by the State Patrol have five years afterward to earn a required 60 college credits. Miller said that, previously, recruits were required to hold an associate degree or have at least 60 college credits before applying.
According to the EEOC report, hiring difficulties involving minorities include reliance on additional selection criteria that can disproportionately impact individuals from underrepresented communities, such as education requirements. A report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center noted that the overall completion rate for students who started in two-year public institutions was higher for white students (45.1%) than Hispanic (33%) and black students (25.8%).
Burrell also noted that women were encouraged to apply.
“Like I say, we currently have women successfully serving here now and I want to encourage more of them to to consider,” Burrell said. “Not only the state patrol but law enforcement in general.”
Burrell told WPR he believes women can see the profession as male-dominated, but he has seen “many women” in leadership positions across the country and wants to encourage women in entering law enforcement in Wisconsin.
Burell said he will continue to make efforts in diversity.
“We highlight our interest in being more representative of the general population in which we serve and we try to stress that we try to strive for that,” Burrell said. “Now, do we always hit the mark? No, but we’re going to continue to push for that. We’re going to continue to make our efforts there, because we know that we’re serving a community … We should be able to build our diversification of our agencies to reflect the communities in which we we live in, serve and protect.”