Elk Grove's Diversity Not Reflected in City's Work Force, Police Department

June 25, 2015 | Does the City of Elk Grove and its police department have a staff of employees that matches the city's well k...

June 25, 2015 |

Does the City of Elk Grove and its police department have a staff of employees that matches the city's well known and celebrated diversity?

This is a question that was examined as a follow-up to a story analyzing the historical makeup of the Elk Grove City Council compared to the population of the city's racial composition. Gender representation of the city council was also examined.

In a new analysis of the employees of the City of Elk Grove and its police department found that current staffing does not reflect the current composition of the population. According to data from the U.S. Census, as of 2013 Elk Grove's population is as follow:
  • White - 46.1-percent
  • Blacks African American - 11.2-percent
  • Latino - 18.0-percent
  • Asian 26.2-percent
  • Two or more races - 7.9-percent
  • Hawaiian Pacific Islander - 1.2-percent
  • Native American 0.6-percent
The city's payroll has an over representation of White employees, is almost even for Hispanics and under-represented for Black and Asian Pacific Islanders. The city currently has 80-full time permanent employees, 53 of whom are female. The report does not show A.D.A. statistics.

According to information in 2013 filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Elk Grove's non-law enforcement employment is 68.25-percent or 55 White; Black, five employees 6.25-percent; Hispanic,  14 employees 17.25-percent; and Asian-Island Pacific, six employees, 7.5 percent.

In terms of salaries, 38 of the city's 80 employees earn over $70,000 annually - the highest reporting category listed on the form. Of that group,  34 were White, three Hispanic, one Asian Pacific Islander and 21 were females.

Of the city's five Black employees, none were employed in the highest pay category; two were employed in the $33,000-42,900 category; one in the $43,000-54,900 category; and two in the $55,000-$69,900 category. The city has three Black female and two male employees.

Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill did not respond to an email request seeking comment on the city's current composition of employees and efforts if any, it is employing to diversity the workforce. The figures posted above do not include any employee working for the city through contractors.

Similarly, of the Elk Grove Police Department's 199 full-time employees, the report showed an over-representation of White employees; a close Hispanic representation; and an under-representation of Asian Pacific Islanders and Blacks. As of the 2013 report, there were 69 females employees.

Of the 199 employees, 148 or 74-percent were white, 10 or 5-percent were Black, 26 or 13-percent were Hispanic; and 15 or 8-percent were Asian Pacific Islander.

Police Chief Robert Lehner acknowledged like many departments across the country, Elk Grove is challenged to diversify its workforce to better reflect its population. One of the biggest challenges Lehner says is simply attracting applicants to a career in law enforcement.

"For various reasons that we’re trying to improve, many minorities do not view a police career as something that would be interesting to them," Lehner said. "That’s much more of an impediment to diverse hiring than any other factor, including background qualifications."

Lehner added that anecdotally, he observed those minorities who apply tend to have better background checks and are less of an issue than for white applicants.   

Concurring with Lehner's assessment of the career attractiveness problem was Dr. Tod Burke, PhD., Associate Dean & Professor of Criminal Justice College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, Radford University. 

"You want to get a police department as representative of the community as possible," he said. "However that is not always possible." 

Like Lehner, Burke said recruitment of minority candidates is a challenge faced by police departments nationally.

"Certain populations are not interested in a career in law enforcement," he said. "So our job, really, is to make it attractive and to show the benefits to work in a diverse community."    

Along those lines, Lehner said Elk Grove is seeking diversity on a number of fronts including participating in job fairs and various outreach programs to area youth promoting law enforcement as a career. Another challenged facing all departments is there are more positions available than there are qualified candidates, and there is intense competition for those candidates.

"The job market right now for a police officer is that, if you’re qualified, you’ll be hired and that applicant pool is not balanced," Lehner said. "For these reasons, the demographics of those hired in our profession presently pretty much matches the qualified applicant pool."

Desirable as having a diverse police force is, notwithstanding that, Burke noted law enforcement can still have positive relations with the community. He cited community policing, which Elk Grove uses, as the type of program that can help foster strong community relations. 

"It is all about training, it's about the policies, it's about the transparency," Burke added.  


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