First responder fields—including law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency management services (EMS)—serve a crucial role in the safety and well-being of communities around the country. Public citizens and officials have placed a renewed focus on improving agencies’ relations with their local communities by ensuring that first responders reflect the populations they serve. The potential benefits of increasing diversity and moving toward greater representation could also provide more secure and rewarding employment opportunities to historically underrepresented populations, thus having implications for local economic and workforce development.
To gain a better understanding of such benefits, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office initiated an exploratory study to identify promising practices that first responder agencies and organizations can leverage to increase the diversity of their workforces. AIR worked with another consulting organization to conduct site visits with first responder organizations to identify the promising recruitment, hiring, training, and retention practices for increasing diversity.