Diversity in Education and Organization: From Political Aims to Practice in the Norwegian Police Service

Date01 March 2021
Published date01 March 2021
Subject MatterArticles
untitled Article
Police Quarterly
Diversity in Education
2021, Vol. 24(1) 74–103
! The Author(s) 2020
and Organization:
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From Political Aims
DOI: 10.1177/1098611120976024
to Practice in
the Norwegian
Police Service
Brita Bjørkelo1
, Hege H. Bye2
Mariann S. Leirvik1,3, Marit Egge1,
and Jaishankar Ganapathy4
Police agencies implement a variety of strategies for recruiting, promoting and
retaining police officers with diverse backgrounds. Changes have however been
difficult to attain. We expand research on representative bureaucracy by investi-
gating diversity perspectives in a case study of the Norwegian Police Service
(NPS). Using mixed-methods we investigate the diversity perspectives of ethnic
minority and majority students and employees in the NPS, focusing on the inter-
play between educational and work experiences, recruitment practices and diver-
sity policies. We found that ethnic minorities were still underrepresented, and
their cultural competence was not fully recognized by other students, teachers,
colleagues and leaders. Interview and field-work findings were corroborated by
surveys among NPS employees documenting that competence development
was perceived as the least emphasized justification for diversity management.
1Research Department, Norwegian Police University College, Oslo, Norway
2Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
3Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
4Department for Further and Continuing Education, Norwegian Police University College, Oslo, Norway
Corresponding Author:
Brita Bjørkelo, Research Department, Norwegian Police University College, Post Box 2109, Vika, 0125
Oslo, Norway.
Email: bribjo@phs.no

Bjørkelo et al.
Despite focusing on a single case, the NPS, we argue that the processes we
describe may be operating also in other multicultural societies.
diversity, diversity perspectives, diversity policy, minority representation, police edu-
cation and organization
Police agencies in many countries are implementing a variety of strategies for
recruiting, promoting and retaining police officers with diverse backgrounds
(van Ewijk, 2012). Despite national differences in societal diversity, a
common characteristic of police organizations in advanced multicultural democ-
racies is a longstanding ambition to increase diversity among employees and the
implementation of a variety of reforms to achieve this end. Norway is no excep-
tion; educational and political aims for more diversity at the Norwegian Police
University College (NPUC) and in the Norwegian Police Service (NPS) have
been set since the early 2000s (Bjørkelo et al., 2015).
Changes, however, have been difficult to achieve. Studies have documented
the difficulties, obstacles and barriers incurred in the implementation of police
reforms targeting the recruitment and retention of minorities. Key obstacles are
related to the organizational culture, racism, and lack of leadership (McMurray
et al., 2010; Metz & Kulik, 2008, van Ewijk, 2012). Studies directed at removing
organizational cultural barriers have investigated the effect of diversity plans
and diversity awareness training e.g., targeting prejudice and commonly held
negative beliefs among majority officers (Cashmore, 2001; Ishaq & Hussain,
2001). This strand of research has relied largely on studies of documents, official
statistics and interviews with key informants. Less emphasis has been placed on
the work experiences of majority and minority officers and their perspectives on
diversity, diversity policies and consequences of diversity (with some notable
exceptions; Cashmore, 2001; Loftus, 2008).
Research on the outcomes of (increased) minority representation in the police
has largely drawn on the theory of representative bureaucracy (Lim, 2006),
addressing whether differences in passive representation of women and ethnic
minorities (i.e., the degree to which police employees within a force or district
mirror the society they serve), translate into differences in active representation
(i.e., advocacy and positive outcomes for the segment of the population repre-
sented). With respect to race and ethnicity, previous work has addressed the
impact of representation on community crime rates, racial disparities in “stop-
and-search”, and police misconduct (Hong, 2016, 2017a, 2017b), racial profiling
(Wilkins & Williams, 2008, 2009), crime clearance and officer turn-over (Hur,

Police Quarterly 24(1)
2013), police homicide of Black citizens (Nicholson-Crotty et al., 2017),
and citizen’s perceptions of performance, fairness and trust (Riccucci et al.,
2018). Across these studies, the results are equivocal with respect to the
effect of minority representation on outcomes, although several studies report
positive relationships.
There is detailed theorizing in the representative bureaucracy literature on the
processes through which the passive representation of minorities translates into
advocacy for minority citizens. Lim (2006) emphasizes how positive outcomes
for minority citizens may come about through mechanisms relating to minority
bureaucrats’ identification, shared values and beliefs, empathic understanding,
communication quality, and striving for impartiality in their dealings with
minority citizens (direct effects). He also describes how minority bureaucrats
may impact outcomes for minority citizens though their impact on majority
colleagues. The presence of minority bureaucrats may induce majority col-
leagues to refrain from acting on their own biases, and over time majority
bureaucrats may experience changes in their own values and believes (indirect
effects, Lim, 2006). What was not emphasized by Lim (2006), is the conditions
under which active representation may follow from the passive representation of
minorities. This, however, is addressed by Ely and Thomas (2001) in their work
on diversity perspectives. The core of their argument is that the outcomes of
diversity in a workgroup depends on the perspective on diversity held by its
members; realizing the benefits of diversity (i.e., active representation) is closely
aligned with the way diversity is thought of within the group.
Diversity Perspectives
Diversity perspectives are a person’s “normative beliefs and expectations about
cultural diversity and its role in their work group”. Such perspectives can be
“explicit, as in verbal or written statements or policies, and implicit, as in the
unstated assumptions that underlie the way a person manages his or her sub-
ordinates or the way a group structures its work” (Ely & Thomas, 2001, p. 235).
Complementing the representative bureaucracy literature and the focus on how
passive representation of minorities translates into advocacy for minority citi-
zens, Ely and Thomas (2001) proposed that the mechanisms through which this
process takes place is dependent upon diversity perspectives. These perspectives
take on (at least) three forms. From the discrimination-and-fairness perspective,
the rationale for diversifying is to ensure justice and equality, and eliminate
discrimination, but diversity is not seen as having a strong connection to
work processes. From the access-and-legitimacy perspective, the rationale for
diversifying is to gain access to, and ensure legitimacy among, specific groups in
society (e.g., ethnic minorities). Diversity is indirectly related to work through
an ethnicity-based division of labor (i.e., minority employees are assigned to
work with minority clients/customers). Finally, from the integration-and-

Bjørkelo et al.
learning perspective, the rationale for diversifying is to inform and enhance
work processes. Cultural identities are seen as a resource for learning and
change, and the aim is to integrate cultural differences into core and mainstream
work processes (Ely & Thomas, 2001). In their empirical analyses, Ely and
Thomas (2001, p. 229) found that “All three perspectives on diversity had
been successful in motivating managers to diversify their staffs, but only the
integration-and-learning perspective provided the rationale and guidance
needed to achieve sustained benefits from diversity”.
Previous research on diversity perspectives among prospective police officers
indicate that ethnic minority individuals may enter the police with the expecta-
tion that their minority background will contribute to both access and legitima-
cy, as well as problem solving. Todak et al. (2018) studied what prospective
police officers perceived as benefits and drawbacks of ethnic diversity in police
agencies. They found that both minority and majority participants thought that
ethnic minority police officers would be especially effective in establishing trust
with minority citizens and work better in diverse neighborhoods. This can be an
indication of an access-and-legitimacy perspective on the role of diversity in
policing. However, the minority interviewees also believed that being bilingual,
and having knowledge of other backgrounds and cultural practices, would be
beneficial in problem solving. This may reflect an integration-and-learning per-
spective. Other research has showed that also working officers emphasize access
to minority civilians and cultural learning as benefits of ethnic diversity
(Andersen et al., 2017; De Vries & Pettigrew, 1998).
In contrast, research among Norwegian police students indicate that they come
to see ethnic diversity as less important to...

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