Beaufort News

Beaufort police a model for federal project on diversity

The Beaufort Police Department has been chosen to participate in a federal project aimed at increasing diversity on police forces.

The Center for Policing Equity, a research organization devoted to the relationship of police and their communities, is working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the project, called “Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement.” The center reached out to Beaufort police because of how well the force appears to mirror the community, the Center for Policing Equity’s Chris Burbank wrote in a June letter inviting Beaufort to participate.

Top brass and other officers were interviewed for hours this month by project representatives. A final report will include recommendations of best practices distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

“Having insights from individuals at all levels within departments that are experiencing success in diversity can help create awareness about promising practices that other departments can duplicate,” wrote Burbank, a retired Salt Lake City, Utah, police chief and director of law enforcement engagement at the Center for Policing Equity.

The Beaufort Police Department could not provide a racial and gender breakdown of its staff Monday.

Before the interviews this month, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said he hoped the panel wasn’t looking for a “magic answer.” The department hires the best candidates to come before the hiring board, he said.

“When we put somebody in a uniform and give them a badge, that’s a huge responsibility,” Clancy said earlier this month. “And we’re not going to just take somebody and say we need another person of this color and make that the reason we hire them.

“We hire them because they are good-hearted people who have the qualifications necessary. We lean more toward the ethical makeup of people when they come before the board and let the rest of it fall where it may.”

In March, Attorney General Loretta Lynch addressed a group of women at a White House summit on women in law enforcement. She told them about the diversity project and noted existing barriers to women who want to be officers.

“Our work begins with making sure that our law enforcement community reflects the diverse makeup of our country – a priority that not only brings us closer to our values as a nation, but also helps us do our job as law enforcement officers by promoting trust with the communities we serve,” Lynch said at the Women and the Criminal Justice System event. “...We are working to understand and remove barriers that inhibit racial and gender diversity, including those that confront women of color in this field.”

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen