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Affirmative Action and the Police

NCJ Number
T Stroup
Date Published
30 pages
Affirmative action is morally justifiable in general, and its specific application to the police has advantages for law enforcement.
Pervasive and massive racial and sexual discrimination has existed in the United States. The hiring pattern of the New York City Police Department shows racial discrimination. Some form of affirmative action is clearly warranted. The common argument that the best person should be chosen for any given position is a false generalization about actual hiring practices in our society. However, we need a clear conception of a police officer's functions as well as a pluralistic and comprehensive set of standards to measure qualifications of applicants. An affirmative action program should consider applicant qualifications to promote efficiency, but the focus on efficiency must be balanced with concern about past hiring discrimination to achieve genuine equality of opportunity. Affirmative action provides some compensatory justice in that it applies to groups which have experienced employment discrimination in the past. It also provides some distributive justice, especially when one group is compared with another, and the full picture of past and present employment distribution is considered. Finally, it provides some measure of utilitarian efficiency, particularly in the long run, by broadening opportunities for economic participation among groups that have traditionally been ignored. Although affirmative action produces resentment and decreased morale among those who now have to make sacrifices, there is no ideal way to overcome the legacy of past discrimination, and concepts of efficiency and fairness rather than objective moral standards provide the best support for affirmative action. Fourteen reference notes are supplied.