The City of Los Angeles is taking on its biggest challenges with data. In the past, it has sought to solve issues of illegal dumping and rising rents with data-focused ideas. Now, LA’s data science team is working to build a more diverse, higher quality police force.

Currently, the LAPD’s racial demographics are not exact but close when it comes to matching the city’s makeup overall, according to Brendan Bailey, data scientist for the City of Los Angeles. However, an aging police force threatens to disrupt that balance.

“Retirements of black officers are on the rise, and not enough are coming through the pipeline,” says Bailey, who presented at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit in San Diego recently. “That threatens to further exacerbate race relations.”

Bailey and his team have helped LA address this issue by building a model to predict retirements that factors in age, years in the LAPD, and gender. With 60 percent of African American officers eligible to retire in the next five years, predicting exactly when officers will leave the force can help those on the staffing side know which candidates to target to maintain a representative sample of the population.

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Building Gender Equity

The greatest diversity challenge the LAPD faces is that 80 percent of the force is men. LA’s data science group examined the data along with the LAPD equity work group to identify where female candidates are falling out of the process—looking from recruitment and training to resignation and termination.

What they found was women were not passing the LAPD’s academy at the same rate as their male counterparts. Men were passing at a rate of 87 percent in 2017 while women were passing at just a 68 percent clip, rates that Bailey said were consistent with previous years.

Digging further into the data to find root causes, Bailey identified that 13 percent of women failed due to the weapons test, while 8.5 percent resigned because they felt physically unprepared.

“That sparked us on what to do,” says Bailey. “We’ve had ideas such as psychologists giving classes on anxiety relief, weapons training programs before the academy, and distributed preparatory materials.”

The nationwide percentage of female police officers was around 12 percent at the end of 2016, according to an FBI report. Looking at that number, the City of Los Angeles is ahead of most of its counterparts in terms of gender equity. So, the effort of making the police force not only more appealing to women, but a place where they can thrive, will be a challenge for the LAPD—albeit an important one.

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Not Just Diversity, But Efficiency

The City of Los Angeles doesn’t want diversity for diversity’s sake. Its ultimate goal is to find the intersection of quality and quantity—having qualified police officers rather than just more police officers.

That’s especially important for handling major events—such as the Olympics in 2028. Bailey says the LAPD wants to build an efficient police force so that has the resources to hire more officers and be flexible when needed.

“We want to identify candidates who feel they have a calling, as well as diverse candidates that are representative of our city,” says Bailey.

Why ASUG Members Should Care

Nearly every organization is facing the challenge of building a more diverse workforce, so the LAPD’s story should ring true for many companies. Staffing and human resources seems to be the last frontier for analytics in many cases, but the City of Los Angeles shows that data science can help identify specific areas where improvements can be made with efficiency in mind.