Kevin and Derri Stormer
I think we can all agree that it has been a rollercoaster ride for law enforcement agencies across the nation. Most of us can also agree that being both Black and a Law Enforcement Officer has become somewhat of a daunting task. Substantial sat down with Kevin and Derri Stormer, a family of Criminal Justice professionals to talk about the importance of diversity in law enforcement, and get their perspective on what can be done to heal the wounds between police and our community.
Why is it important to have minorities in law enforcement? How does the lack of race and gender affect police departments?
DS: Simply stated, representation matters! How do you seek to build a relationship with a community where they cannot look within your department and see someone that looks like them in it? When diversity is missing within a police department, departments are left many times in a reactive approach.
KS: I feel it is important to have minority representation at every level (entry, middle management, administration) of law enforcement. As a culture we have lobbied to have a seat at every table of government but, law enforcement/public safety is a key position our communities often sky away from. When your law enforcement agencies and police departments become a reflection of the population it serves, then true inclusion and policy reform can take place. Having representation at the table is a critical part of reform!
What’s been your biggest lesson on diversity and inclusion in law enforcement?
KS: As a part of an agency’s leadership team, I have a responsibility to myself, the agency, and the community to make sure my image is not the maximum reflection of diversity. We must become purposeful in identifying our successors and other qualified minorities.
DS: Representation Matters!! Saying it again for those in the back. We have to actively work at building relationships with diverse groups.
How can law enforcement empower themselves to create a more inclusive environment in their communities and in the office?
DS: We cannot continue to want to show up after something happens. Even the best intentions will be seen “for show” or not authentic. To not be afraid of your biases but practice self awareness so you can improve with yourself first.
KS: Trust and Transparency will be key to bridging the gaps in their communities. Agencies must learn to write their own narratives, be the first to admit when they are wrong, and equally as responsive in boasting about their good deeds. Department employees (Sworn & Civilian) have to be personally invested in the success of a neighborhood/community.
What can leaders in law enforcement do to bridge the gap between cultures and communities?
DS: Go to them. Talk to the community leaders, activists, discover what cultures are represented within your community, etc. In doing so, you aren’t just offering an olive branch but being proactive. We (LE) are always asking what can we do? Well, many times, people have already told us, they are waiting on the results. We must be mindful of the promises that are made because not having accountability is a quick way to lose trust.
KS: Ditto! Leadership teams inside the agency will need to partner with community stakeholders to find out what caused “trust” to be broken between the agency and the community. You can’t begin to fix a new problem if you don’t understand what caused the original problem.