The Obama administration is trying to pressure law enforcement agencies to hire officers with criminal records, all in the name of 'community relations'. Judicial Watch reports:
In a push to hire minority police officers, the Obama administration is asking the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies to forgive drug use, disregard the criminal records of candidates from “underrepresented communities” and lower standards on written and physical exams. It’s part of the administration’s Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement initiative following a string of officer-involved shootings involving African Americans. Key to the mission is the racial diversification of local law enforcement agencies so that they “better reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”
To accomplish this, several barriers must be removed ... To eliminate the largest barriers agencies are adopting a “holistic view” of applicants’ skills and strengths by, among other things, ignoring their criminal record.
. . .
To further discourage law enforcement agencies from eliminating candidates with criminal pasts, the report states that “an employer’s use of criminal background information can violate either the intentional or disparate impact provisions of Title VII, depending on how that information is used.” This refers to the section of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The argument here is that a disproportionate number of minorities will be eliminated by criminal background checks. The administration concedes that legal challenges claiming that criminal background check policies have unlawful disparate impacts “have generally not been successful in court.” Credit history checks and psychological evaluations also present “discriminatory employment barriers to women and racial minority applicants,” the report states.
. . .
Besides discounting criminal records and drug use, the administration wants law enforcement agencies to lower standards on written tests because they have “been shown to have an adverse impact on racial minority candidates.”
There's more at the link.
Having worked in a support role in law enforcement for several years, I would agree that there is discrimination in hiring in a number of law enforcement agencies around the country - but it's not what the Administration seems to think. Rather, it's mostly reverse discrimination, in that unqualified and under-performing minority candidates for promotion are very often promoted ahead of their more deserving peers, in the name of 'undoing historical discrimination' or something like that. There have been a number of lawsuits about it (such as this one, for example). Political correctness appears to outweigh basic fairness and equity, all too often.
There's also the issue of public trust in law enforcement agencies and officers. I have serious misgivings about some of them, as we've seen in these pages in the past. Nevertheless, I accept that most of the officers I encounter are likely to be honest men and women, who are trying to enforce the law and maintain public order. However, if some of those officers are going to be given a badge despite their criminal records, how will I know which of them I can trust? I certainly won't trust a convicted felon to be a good cop. That's not racist - that's common sense!
This is where the Peelian Principles of policing run head-on into the dichotomy of modern society. The seventh Principle reads as follows:
To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
How can that be possible for an officer who is also a convicted felon? In certain inner-city neighborhoods, where the majority of residents have participated in criminal activity to at least some extent and many have been convicted for it, such an officer may, indeed, have more 'street credibility' than one without such a background. However, the automatic expectation of his former criminal peers will be that he turn a blind eye to their ongoing crimes. If he doesn't, he'll be regarded as a 'snitch' and dealt with accordingly, regardless of the badge he wears. Neither he nor his 'homies' are likely to be interested in "duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence." That's not what the hood is all about. Furthermore, once out of the hood, anyone from that background is going to be regarded with intense suspicion by those who do try to observe and fulfil such duties. That has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the reality of basic security considerations. Criminals may try to change their ways, but very few of them succeed.
I don't think these proposals stem from any great interest in law enforcement as such. I think they're motivated by political correctness, and an inherently left-wing, progressive dislike for and distrust of law enforcement agencies. I think they'll be disastrous for law and order if they're implemented.