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Driving Diversity Through Social Media Screening in the Law Enforcement Industry

By Lindsey Twigg on 16 Sep 2020
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As the corporate landscape continues to face a reckoning in terms of the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion initiatives, the law enforcement industry is facing similar challenges--with twice the public pressure. Research initiatives have helped support the claim that diversifying law enforcement improves relationships with local communities. However, many public-service agencies are still struggling with the everyday challenge of combating toxic workplace attitudes, which may perpetuate biases that can be harmful when engaging with the public. 

Here, social media screening is emerging as a practical tool to support a healthier workplace culture. By taking a more holistic approach to screening, law enforcement agencies can mitigate toxic behavior and conscious bias to maintain or repair trust within the communities that they serve. In turn, a healthier workplace culture that actively engages in driving out discrimination may begin to attract a more diverse candidate pool. Here is how:

Holistic screening takes a more nuanced approach to the individual

While screening criminal behavior is a prerequisite for a career in law enforcement, social media screening adds a layer of behavioral, character, and fitness evaluation to identify outstanding candidates for public safety roles. Where traditional background checks lack scope, social media screening fills in the gaps by pinpointing problematic behaviors like admissions of criminal activity or penchants for violence. 

It's no secret that the actions of police officers are closely monitored and critiqued by the public, and often incidents are paired with either an assessment of the individual's social media presence or a video of an event. A recent firing in Virginia involved excessive use of force while another in Kentucky involved an endorsement of hate speech. Although only one event happened on the job, both are work-related because they lessen an agency's ability to serve the community effectively. In the same way that an instance of excessive force can change public perception, espousing violent, threatening, or intolerant views can lead to the deterioration of public trust, similarly straining community relations. The solution is to take preventative action. 

Agency values can help drive the screening process

Diversity and inclusion initiatives rely heavily on a values-driven hiring approach, and values are demonstrated best through a track record of social behavior. Social media screening functions as a practical solution to screen for behavior that goes against an agency’s values. For example, if an agency’s values include tolerance and inclusivity, the individual screening process should reasonably involve an assessment of a candidate's publicly stated intolerance or bigoted behavior. 

Social Intelligence Reports, at a base level, include filters for violence and discrimination. In many cases, agencies have looked to specify further with tailored filters for gang and hate group affiliation relevant to the communities they serve. With these clear, department-related filters, hiring managers are equipped with an actionable document to assist in assessing a candidate’s fitness when their report demonstrates a history of value-averse behavior. 

Driving out discrimination can help attract more diverse talent

While the EEOC has made efforts in the past five years to advance diversity in law enforcement, diversity is reliant on inclusive culture. Discrimination and intolerance are often cited as leading factors in turnover and generally stem from exclusive or homogenous workplace culture.

We have found that when agencies prioritize inclusivity, they set a precedent for attracting and retaining a diverse pool of talent. To build more diverse public safety teams, these agencies commit to the idea of searching for candidates that will actively support their initiatives in both sentiment and action. Like any other industry, the public safety sector goes through a natural turnover process. With social media screening, HR managers can reliably weed out harmful behavior by screening all new hires for potentially problematic behavior across multiple categories.

In turn, the agency is actively taking steps to deter discrimination and more likely to extend that same attitude to the public, creating a healthier and safer environment not only for officers but in the community as well.

What can Social Intelligence do for law enforcement?

Social Intelligence is proud to have direct relationships with several law enforcement agencies as well as a trusted partnership with Miller Mendel, Inc., a leading background screening agency dedicated exclusively to public safety. Every day, Social Intelligence serves the highly specific needs of the law enforcement industry by customizing reports to include online searches for ongoing concerns such as gang affiliation, photos of fieldwork, and public ties to persons of interest. For law enforcement agencies, public trust is of utmost importance. Social Intelligence is here to help agencies navigate how public trust and public interest are being increasingly worked out and tested in digital spaces.

Looking for more?

We also wrote about social media background checks for law enforcement here.

For a deeper dive, download our ebook: 

Social Media Background Screening for Law Enforcement.