The Importance of Diversity in Policing

It’s no surprise that the Diversity Roundtable of Central Indiana asked Captain John Walton, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), to return and present on the importance of diversity and inclusion efforts for the second time. His impact on central Indiana as a public servant, problem solver, and leader in the world of diversity and inclusion continue to radiate positive messages across our neighborhoods and communities.


As the host of these gatherings each month, United Way of Central Indiana caught up with Captain Walton and learned more about how IMPD is inspiring agencies everywhere to advocate for diversity and inclusion strategies that strengthen the relationships between police officers and the communities in which they serve.


What does diversity mean to you?


Diversity, to me, is accepting our differences. Whether your practice a different religion, speak a different language, or classify yourself differently in terms of race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation – it is something to be acknowledged. Diversity is gaining a new perspective, and it’s those perspectives that allow us to think outside of the box and come together to tackle our community’s most complex issues.


Why did you choose a career in public safety?


I graduated from Ball State University and ended up at IUPUI as a campus police officer. It was then I realized how much I enjoyed law enforcement. I eventually applied for a job with IMPD and was accepted.


Police work is more of a calling than anything else. It allows you to have an impact on people’s lives in a positive way and make a difference. You must have a passion for helping people, but I would say that the most important thing to have in law enforcement is compassion. It’s being able to understand that not everyone comes from the same background, helping people who can’t help themselves, and building relationships that go beyond your badge.


Give some examples of how IMPD embraces a diverse and inclusive police force. Why is that important today?


Diversity and inclusion begin with good leadership. Mayor Joe Hogsett and Chief Roach are committed to strengthening our efforts and continue to launch us forward as leaders of diversity in law enforcement.


IMPD embraces an initiative called Women Behind the Badge that helps recruit and get women more involved in law enforcement. Additionally, we have a group called Diversity Think Tank – which is a combination of government and elected officials, faith-based leaders, and community leaders – that is responsible for developing a 2-3-year strategic diversity and inclusion plan for the police department. We’re also working on an e-learning diversity training that will be included in our training process.


Our country’s demographics are rapidly changing. As minority populations rise, so should the minority populations of our police force. It increases the accountability of an agency to engage in diversity and inclusion efforts, and that is incredibly important in today’s world.


Paint a picture of what you envision for the future of IMPD:


Once we finish our strategic plan, the Diversity Think Tank will become an advisory group for the police department. I see us continuing to develop and improve the department and becoming a model for others on a larger level. We are progressively leading the way with this concept – and I see this generating national attention.