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EEOC Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows Delivers Remarks at the Announcement to Advance Diversity in Law Enforcement

Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.-Friday, December 11, 2015

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. I'm Charlotte Burrows, a Commissioner with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. I'd like to welcome and extend my gratitude to all of you for joining us for this important event. I also want to thank Demetra [Nightingale] for the overview of the Department of Labor's diversity project. We look forward to continued collaboration with our friends at the Labor Department as our projects develop.

I don't need to tell you that the question of promoting racial and gender diversity in law enforcement continues to challenge us as a nation. The tragic deaths of so many African Americans at the hands of police officers sworn to protect them and their communities has put that question at the forefront of an important national discussion that is long overdue. The problem is not new, but the awareness of it, due in part to technological advances that permit real-time reports and video footage, has created a spotlight on the issue that makes it impossible to ignore. It has also placed a renewed spotlight on the lack of diversity in many police forces and on the resulting disparities between the demographics of many law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

While it's by no means the entire answer, achieving diversity in police departments has a role to play in efforts to ensure that police officers understand and respect the rights of minority communities and that they understand and respect the rights of women.

The EEOC has a particular expertise in these diversity issues, and we are working to contribute that expertise as part of a broader federal government effort to address the problem.

Our over-arching goal must be to help ensure that as a society, and as the federal government, we do more than simply react to each individual crisis as it arises. We must also work thoughtfully and deliberately-but urgently-toward real, long-term solutions.

That's why the Commission is excited about joining with the Justice Department to launch this important effort to identify barriers that undermine equal employment opportunity and diversity in police departments. We will explore what actually works to reduce those barriers and promote fairness in recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion.

So I am thrilled to be joined by our distinguished panelists, each one of whom is a true expert in various aspects of this problem.

First, we will hear from Delora L. Kennebrew, who currently serves as chief of the Civil Rights Division's Employment Litigation Section at the Department of Justice. In that role, she oversees the Justice Department's enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964-the law that prohibits job discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, or religion-with respect to state and local government employers. She also supervises the Section's dedicated career staff of attorneys, paralegals, and other professionals. She will talk to us today about the impetus for this project from the Employment Litigation Section's perspective and how it will complement their work.

We will also hear from Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff. Dr. Goff is an associate professor of Social Psychology at UCLA and is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard's Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy. He is also a co?founder and the president for Research of the Center for Policing Equity, or CPE, a research consortium that promotes police transparency and accountability by facilitating innovative research collaborations between law enforcement agencies and social scientists. CPE has been selected to conduct the research for this project, and we're pleased to have the benefit of its expertise. Dr. Goff will outline CPE's involvement in the project and connect this effort to other timely work CPE is conducting.

Finally, I'd like to welcome and introduce Darrel Stephens, who has served as the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association since 2010. Mr. Stephens is a member of the faculty of the Public Safety Leadership Program in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, where he has served as an instructor since June 2008. He is an accomplished police executive with more than 40 years of experience and will discuss why diversity matters from the law enforcement perspective.

After hearing from our panel, we're fortunate to have Ron Davis, the director of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS office, provide his thoughts as well. The thoughts and perspectives of all of you in the audience are also a crucial part of this dialogue, and we've reserved time at the end to be sure we hear from you.

With those introductions, I look forward to hearing from our panelists.