Council Bluffs Police Chief Tim Carmody said he isn’t concerned about his prospect officers’ ethnic backgrounds; rather, he wants to bring people onto the force that are applying for the right reasons, possess integrity and that will serve the community well.
Of the department’s 116 sworn officers, 102 are white men, two are Hispanic men and one is an Asian man. There are 11 female officers on the force, as well, according to figures provided by city Communications Officer Ashley Kruse.
Diversity within the department is certainly something that is analyzed, Carmody said, but added that from a recruitment standpoint it simply isn’t feasible to have a perfect ratio of officers representing the many ethnic groups.
“This is a melting pot; this country is truly a melting pot,” the chief said. “And we are never going to be able to have enough people from each sub-group or sub-category that understands the dynamics of each and every one of those cultures.”
“You need to have people that are open and willing enough to go into those cultures and learn what they need to relate to people at that level.”
And, simply put, he said the best applicants — those meeting physical/mental qualifications and making their way through the Civil Service Commission application process — are the ones hired. Race isn’t something considered, he said.
“Do people truly understand that it’s inappropriate and illegal for me to go out and say, ‘I want you, you, you, you and you, I’m going to exclude all these white males because they are now overrepresented in our department?’” Carmody said.
From a diversity standpoint, the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office is in a similar boat as the local police department. Of the office’s 54 sworn deputies, 53 are white and one is Hispanic. There are also four women deputies on the force, according to Chief Deputy Rob Ambrose.
He echoed Carmody’s sentiment regarding the challenge of simply getting the right people through the door to take on what is arguably one of the most difficult occupations. Ambrose and Carmody both said fewer and fewer people are applying to get into law enforcement, and this makes it even more difficult to diversify a department.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have an equal amount of representation from all the different (ethnic) groups, and have everybody represented …” Ambrose said. “But at this time, it’s just not the reality.”
Carmody added that minorities are heavily recruited to private sector jobs, which can make it more difficult to attract them to a dangerous profession that oftentimes isn’t as lucrative as other business ventures.
“When you talk about recruiting, the challenge that we have right now is that in the current environment, in the past few months with the attacks on law enforcement, it makes it incredibly hard to recruit anyone, let alone minorities,” the chief said.
“… Minorities are being heavily recruited by the private sector. They are being paid better, they have better schedules, they have weekends off, no ones threatening their lives; I mean, how do I recruit someone to take less pay, to come into a wonderful community that I love working for and ask them to do a dangerous job?
“They have option A: easier job, more money, less risk. Then there’s option B.”
But whether it’s a white officer or a minority officer in uniform, Carmody emphasized the importance of de-escalation and use-of-force training at the 16-week academy all new department recruits complete.
All told, information provided by Carmody shows recruits complete 393 hours of use-of-force training while at the academy. This training, he said, is designed to make for more positive, less hostile interactions between the public and his officers.
But it takes far, far more than training to be a great member of law enforcement, Carmody said, adding that there’s more pressure than ever from a department standpoint to make sure the right people are sworn in.
“Our challenge to our people is to find the right people with the right traits and characteristics who have a passion for learning and want to serve,” he said. “Because, then you can teach them how to become a police officer, as opposed to not coming in and having those traits and characteristics.”
Those characteristics, he said, include being service oriented, problem solvers, collaborative, accountable, having high integrity, quality leadership skills, strong work ethic, fiscal responsibility and a positive attitude.
These qualities, he said, are needed to ensure that Council Bluffs is policed in the right way.
“When we go out every day, our goal is to make this city as safe as it can be and make Council Bluffs as welcoming an environment as possible.”
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