Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Affirmative Action in Times of Fiscal Stress and Changing Value Priorities: The Case of Women in Policing

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Affirmative Action in Times of Fiscal Stress and Changing Value Priorities: The Case of Women in Policing

Article excerpt

Affirmative Action in Times of Fiscal Stress and Changing Value Priorities: The Case of Women in Policing

Public sector affirmative action programs must contend with recent political and economic trends. Given the conservative political environment which de-emphasizes affirmative action, and given the advent of serious fiscal constraints facing many cities, is it reasonable to expect progress in employment of women in nontraditional roles within municipal governments? This articles investigates this question using data gathered from reported surveys of over 280 municipal police departments in major American cities over the period 1978 to 1987. Findings suggest that women may have a long and difficult road ahead for improving their representation in municipal policing.

There has been considerable debate over the impact of affirmative action programs on female and racial minority employment in police departments over the last decade. A study based on a sample of 20 large cities, suggests not only that affirmative action "goals are firmly entrenched in virtually all governmental units, including the police," but also argues that "police departments in American cities have experienced dramatic changes with respect to minority employment, and it is reasonable to expect the changes to continue...racial minorities and females are represented in police departments to a degree never before witnessed" (Hochstedler et al. 1984:13). A 1978 LEAA pilot study of women in policing in New York City, on the other hand, suggests that periodic municipal budgetary constraints have led to a loss of 88% of newly appointed policewomen during the mid 1970's (Sichel et al. 1978). Situations of fiscal distress such as that witnessed in New York City in the mid 1970's are found in a number of cities today, leading one social scientist to conclude that "layoffs imposed by budgetary constraints have negated recent progress (affirmative action) in some departments" (Walker, 1983:3; see also Horne, 1979). Given the serious fiscal constraints facing many American cities, and a de-emphasis on compensatory employment programs, is it reasonable to expect increasing numbers of women in such non-traditional municipal occupations as policing?

A theoretical framework useful for understanding how shifts in political and economic conditions can affect the hiring of women in policing comes from the work of Donald Klingner and John Nalbandian (Klingner and Nalbandian, 1985:15-30). At the basis of their suggestive analytical scheme for the study of public personnel administration is the notion that public sector jobs are a scarce social, economic, and political resource. How public sector jobs are designed and allocated inevitably entails difficult value tradeoffs. Klingner and Nalbandian have identified four general categories of values involved in these tradeoffs: responsiveness (program priority identification), efficiency, individual rights, and social equity (focus on equality for particular disadvantaged groups). These four over-arching core functions of the public personnel system are greatly affected by contemporary social forces. As societal changes produce shifts in relative emphasis (e.g., a de-emphasis on social equity), these functions are filtered through political, economic, social, and technical conditions to create the important "outcomes" (e.g., legislation, executive directives, merit system rules, judicial interpretations, etc.) which give form to public personnel systems. Since 1980, shifts in emphasis concerning these values have been apparent. For example, movement away from social equity can be seen in the state values and policy goals of political leaders such as former President Reagan and former Attorney General, Edwin Meese, as well as in a number of recent Supreme Court cases. These have consequences for programs which target particular disadvantaged groups such as women and racial minorities.

The study reported here follows the Klingner and Nalbandian framework. …

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