Report shows lack of diversity with Virginia natural resource officers, confirms 10 On Your Side’s 2019 findings


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Nearly 30% of Virginia’s population, and 36% of Hampton Roads is minority, but you can’t tell from the faces of its natural resources law enforcement.

A report from Virginia’s Inspector General says the Virginia Mariner Resources Commission, the Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly known as Game and Inland Fisheries) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation need to get better at reaching out to and recruiting minorities and women for their police forces.

As 10 On Your Side reported last October, VMRC lags far behind when it comes to a workforce that looks like Virginia.

Our investigation spotlighted an African American whistle blower who had worked in state and military law enforcement for nearly 20 years. He was in supervisory, investigative and undercover positions and applied twice for open positions with VMRC’s Marine Police but was turned down.

At the time, VMRC had no African American officers, and in the past five years had peaked at just 2% in a state where that demographic is about 20%.

The Inspector General’s report found similar results. It examined all three agencies from 2014 through 2018. The report says officers for VMRC are currently 97% white, and 98% male. The other two departments are only slightly more representative, with more than 90% white male officers.

According to the report’s data, 3,563 non-minority candidates applied for positions with the three agencies over the five-year span. 216 were hired, for a hire rate of 6%.

During the same period, 466 minority candidates applied. Seven were hired, for a hire rate of 1.5%.

That means 11% of the applicants were minorities, but they comprised less than one quarter of 1% of people who were hired.

The inspector general recommends that all three departments make community engagement part of their strategic planning, and create a shared position that would focus on diversity recruiting.

Last year, VMRC said it welcomed the IG’s investigation as a way of improving its diversity initiatives.

10 On Your Side reached out to Virginia’s Diversity Director Janice Underwood and she did not respond to our request for an interview. Wildlife Resources says it has already started an outreach program targeting schools in Hampton Roads to introduce students to the outdoors.

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