Chandler Police aim to become more diverse - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Police aim to become more diverse

June 25th, 2021 development
Chandler Police aim to become more diverse

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Police Department says it’s progressing on improving the diversity of its officers in order to better reflect the city’s demographics.

During a recent discussion on equity and diversity with the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, the department’s leaders said they’re slowly improving the make-up of its personnel to be more inclusive to women and people of color.

Assistant Chief Bryan Cox said at least 15 percent of officers recently hired in Chandler identify as Hispanic, 8 percent Black and 70 percent white.

According to federal census data, more than 20 percent of Chandler’s residents identify as Hispanic, 74 percent are white, 11 percent are Asian, and 5 percent are Black. 

Cox said the goal is to eventually have the agency’s officers closely reflect the community they serve. It takes a long time to reach that diversity goal, he noted, but Chandler is gradually getting there.

In a profession long dominated by men, Chandler Police say it has also improved its demographics to be more balanced between genders and that it continues to strive to be more representative.

About 80 percent of the city’s current officers are men and 20 percent are women. Eighteen years earlier, women accounted for only 8 percent of Chandler’s officers.

Minorities and women have regularly applied to become police officers in Chandler, but many have not made it through the city’s selective hiring process. 

In 2004, the East Valley Tribune found one group of 145 police applicants included 18 women and none of them made it to the final six candidates considered by the city.

Out of a class of 44 officers hired by Chandler Police in the early 2000s, fewer than 13 percent were women and only 9 percent were Hispanic. None were Black.

People of color working as officers have said their presence can have a positive effect on citizens who may have had negative experiences with law enforcement in the past.

Chandler Officer Stephen Barnes, who was hired in 2019, said he’s noticed his race having an impact on the Black citizens he has contact with while on duty.

Barnes said he has conducted traffic stops where the driver is Black and they suddenly look relieved once they notice he is as well.

Diversity has been a particularly sensitive subject in a city that has experienced instances of racial profiling in its past.

In 1997, a class-action lawsuit accused Chandler Police of rounding up Hispanic residents and questioning them on their citizenship. The five-day raids caused a major rift between law enforcement and Chandler’s Hispanic community, eventually resulting in the city paying out a $400,000 settlement for civil rights violations.

Since the infamous roundups, the department has attempted to improve how officers interact with minority communities.

Cox said the city has been conducting implicit bias and mental health training for years and will continue to have officers undergo the training on a regular basis.

The city also is continuing to boost its efforts to recruit a broad pool of applicants, Cox added, by introducing new marketing strategies and offering monetary incentives to new hires.

Few applicants actually make it all the way through the city’s extensive vetting process, which ends in a one-on-one meeting with Police Chief Sean Duggan – who has the final say on whether the candidate gets to wear a badge in Chandler.   

The city is not looking to hire perfect people, Duggan said, but they’re looking to hire honest people.

Chandler has worked diligently to earn the trust of its community, the chief added, and it needs new officers who can help the city maintain that valuable trust.

The Chandler department simply wants applicants willing to perform a difficult job and who are interested in making a difference in their community, the chief said.

Policing in America has come under greater scrutiny in the last year due to a series of lethal incidents across the country that ended in the deaths of unarmed citizens.

Protestors have marched in cities all over the country, demanding for changes in local municipalities that can prevent instances of police brutality.

Chandler Police officers have a relatively low rate of incidents involving violence committed against suspects. Public records show Chandler’s officers made 132 applications of force during the 6,600 arrests they made in 2020.

Duggan said his agency has reacted to the recent calls for reform by implementing more than a dozen new policies that boost transparency and attempt to hold officers more accountable.

Even if Chandler is making strides in strengthening its diversity and inclusion efforts, it may have a difficult time in the near future recruiting enough talented applicants who can satisfy the city’s standards.

Police departments across the country have been grappling with a sudden decline in workforce after a massive cohort of officers left the profession during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, resignations among police officers increased by 18 percent over the last year and retirements spiked by 45 percent.