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EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang 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


Many thanks to the Department of Justice for hosting this discussion. Thank you, Vanita [Gupta], for that warm introduction and for your strong leadership on policing issues. Vanita and her colleagues at DOJ have been invaluable partners to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It is terrific to be here today to jointly announce our new research initiative, which will study barriers that undermine equal employment opportunity and identify promising practices to recruit and hire a diverse workforce and also to build an inclusive work culture that will help retain and promote people from many backgrounds within the police force.

To all of you who have joined us this morning, my great thanks for being here and taking part in this important discussion. I am honored to join such a distinguished group of leaders from the policing, labor, civil rights, and academic communities.

I am pleased to be joined today by my colleague EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows. She and her staff have made invaluable contributions to this effort.

This project is very important to both Charlotte and me. We got our start working at DOJ in the Employment Litigation Section on issues of public employment involving police officers and other first responders. Charlotte went on to become Associate Deputy AG at DOJ and has significant experience on policing issues.

Working with police officers gave me a deep appreciation for the extraordinary risks these courageous men and women take every day to help keep our communities safe. I know I speak for everyone here when I say that we are incredibly grateful for the important work that you do.

I have seen firsthand that these issues are hard, but not insurmountable. There is no magic bullet, but with the help of all of you in this room and other experts in the field, we can pool our collective knowledge to identify those practices that are truly working to change workplace cultures and develop a diverse and highly qualified police force.

And we know that this is important work-it is vitally important for our communities and for our police departments for these efforts to succeed. We understand, of course, that a diverse police force will not alone ensure safe and effective policing, but it is an essential part of the solution. The credibility and effectiveness of public institutions are strengthened when opportunities to serve are available to all members of a community. And importantly, our workplaces are stronger and deliver better results for those we serve when we harness the talents of all members of our society.

Background on Policing

For EEOC, these are not new issues to confront. Our Strategic Enforcement Plan prioritizes eliminating systemic barriers to hiring and recruitment. And we have a longstanding commitment to working with municipalities to provide technical assistance on our anti-discrimination laws.

So, while we recognize that the challenge is not new, what is new is the urgency of action. In the wake of the events in Ferguson and in communities across the country, we have seen an evolving national conversation on race and policing. In addition, there are many qualified women who also want to serve, and we are examining how to advance gender diversity in policing as well. These are defining issues of our time and to address these issues, at least in part, President Obama created a 21st Century Task Force on Policing.

Vanita mentioned that in January EEOC and DOJ authored a "Diversity in Law Enforcement Literature Review," which identified research and academic scholarship addressing diversity in law enforcement to provide the 21st Century Taskforce with a cross-section of relevant research to inform its efforts.

I want to take a moment to highlight two key findings of the literature review: First, diversity can be a crucial element in establishing and expanding trust between law enforcement and the community. Second, a wide range of barriers may undermine diversity at every stage of the recruiting, hiring, and selection process, but there are concrete and specific steps law enforcement agencies can take to achieve greater diversity among their personnel.

We know that there are many police departments with a strong commitment to expanding opportunities to serve that have devoted significant time to building and maintaining a diverse workforce. We look forward to highlighting some of the most effective strategies that these police departments have developed that can be used by others to strengthen their workforce.

EEOC's Role

Our agency's singular focus is to promote equality of opportunity at work. Our jurisdiction includes private, federal, and public sector workplaces, which include state and local law enforcement agencies. EEOC shares enforcement authority for public sector employers with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Generally, the Commission receives, investigates, and may mediate charges of discrimination against public employers. When the Commission finds reasonable cause to believe an unlawful employment practice has occurred, it attempts to conciliate and resolve those charges. If it is unable to do so, EEOC refers the charge to DOJ, which has authority to sue public employers.

Although enforcement of our anti-discrimination laws is distinct from the promotion of diversity in the workplace, the concepts are linked, because compliance with EEO laws will often lead to greater diversity in the workplace. Moreover, the absence of diversity is often a critical indicator of potential barriers to equal employment opportunity in the workplace.

DOJ Partnership

The research initiative that we are announcing today will identify barriers that undermine equal employment opportunity, as well as promising practices that departments can use to reduce those barriers and promote fairness in their employment and selection processes. The project will seek to identify solutions in several key stages of the employment process, including employee pipelines, hiring, and promotion.

In closing, it is our hope that today's conversation is the beginning of a long-term partnership with many of you on advancing diversity and inclusion in law enforcement. I thank you all again for the opportunity to speak with you, and I look forward to the conversation ahead.