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Grand Valley Police Academy growing in size, diversity

Tribune News Service • May 4, 2018 at 5:00 PM

ALLENDALE — For the second consecutive year, Grand Valley State University is touting the growth of its Police Academy in size and diversity.

The pool of women and minorities interested in police work is traditionally smaller than white men.

The Grand Valley's Police Academy's 2018 class is the largest to date, with 43 recruits, up three from 2017.

The class has 14 women, including black and American Indian females. Of the 29 men enrolled, two are Hispanic and one is of mixed race. This compares to 12 women and six men of color in 2017 -four blacks and two Hispanics.

"Agencies are making a more concerted effort to do more diversity recruiting so that hey can better reflect the communities they serve,'' Williamson Wallace, director of Criminal Justice Training at Grand Valley.

Wallace said there are 28 pre-service recruits, who will be seeking employment upon graduation. He said 15 in-service recruits have already been hired and are sponsored by a law enforcement agency.

He said there will be a demand for law enforcement jobs. During the mid-1990s, he said the law enforcement community experienced significant growth, but those men and women have now reached the age of retirement.

Grand Valley's academy is conducted annually during the spring/summer semester, May through August. The 2018 class will graduate August 16 at 2 p.m. in the Haas Center for Performing Arts in Allendale.

The academy goes beyond a the mandatory minimum training requirement of 594 hours set by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and provides 653 hours of instruction in 16 weeks.

Over the last few years, there has been a greater focus on increasing diversity in law enforcement spurred by an ongoing national conversation on community-police relations.

In 2016, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Civil Rights Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) co-released Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement, a report aimed at tackling diversity in America's law enforcement ranks.

"Despite their efforts, law enforcement agencies of all sizes have not always been successful in recruiting and attracting individuals that reflects the communities they serve,'' according to the Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement report.

"This is likely attributable to a number of factors that are present in the recruiting, hiring, and retention phases."

According to the report, practices adopted by law enforcement agencies vary but successful diversity-building efforts by agencies share several common themes, including:

Engaging stakeholders- both from within and outside the law enforcement agency - to help create a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community.

Being willing to re-evaluate employment criteria, standards, and benchmarks to ensure that they are tailored to the skills needed to perform job functions, and consequently attract, select, and retain the most qualified and desirable sworn officers.

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