Capitol Police Hire Diversity Officer

Posted February 2, 2010 at 6:19pm

Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse recently hired the department’s first-ever “diversity officer,” his latest effort to improve the agency’s troubled administrative arm.

Police officials called the hire a “proactive step.” But the department has had discrimination complaints in the past, and minorities have had some trouble making their way to the top rungs of the management ladder.

In 2007 — the most recent year for which statistics are publicly available — only 14.3 percent of the department’s executive-level positions were filled with minorities. The government-wide number was 16.6 percent during the same period of time.

The department is also fighting a lawsuit filed by more than 250 current and former black officers, who claim they were denied promotions and treated unfairly because of a hostile work environment.

Still, the Capitol Police has made significant improvements in the past decade. In 2002, no minorities were in the “developmental pool,” or positions that lead to higher-ranking jobs. But in 2007, minorities made up 22.7 percent of those positions.

In a statement Tuesday, Morse called the new diversity officer “vitally important” to the department’s hiring plans.

“The position of Diversity Officer is also a crucial element of our continued emphasis and commitment to ensuring transparency and consistency in selection and promotion processes,” he said, “as well as continuing the drive toward a diverse pool of candidates who have the opportunity to advance into the supervisory, management, and executive ranks of the Department.”

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer — who preceded Morse as the Capitol Police chief — applauded the move. Officers and civilian employees, he said, will now be able to take diversity questions and issues to an internal official rather than to the Office of Compliance.

“The goal of the department is to make sure there is a diverse work force,” he said. “I think this is a further attempt to try to reach out to everyone and be transparent and to ensure we have programs that are equitable and fair.”

The position has been filled by Marcus Williams, the former deputy director of the equal employment opportunity staff in the Justice Management Division of the Department of Justice. In an e-mail, Williams said he started Monday and is “excited to be a member of the USCP team.”

“Generally speaking, my goal is to assist the USCP to eliminate any barriers to workplace diversity that may exist,” he said. “Since this is only my second day on the job, I am working to become more familiar with existing USCP policies, procedures and goals.”

The hire is Morse’s latest effort to improve the department’s administrative division, which was created in 2003. (Before then, its payroll and other administrative duties fell to Congress.) The Government Accountability Office has issues dozens of recommendations in the past few years, and Morse has been steadily implementing them.

In a 2008 oversight hearing, Capitol Police Inspector General Carl Hoecker told Members that the department lacked a formal diversity program or an Equal Employment Office function. Instead, the same office that represents the department in EEO complaints was determining the “legal sufficiency” of those same complaints.

At the time, Hoecker recommended the Capitol Police consider separating the two functions. Hiring a diversity officer seems to follow that advice. Police officials have also fulfilled Hoecker’s recommendation to finalize the department’s “Human Capital Strategic Workforce Plan.”