CENTRAL TEXAS – Police departments and the manner in which they protect and serve has dominated headlines across the country in recent weeks.
Two Central Texas police chiefs discuss the importance of diversity within their departments.
“We’re at 10 percent African-American officers, so that is below representative of our community – same as Hispanics. We always need to be doing better,” said Chief Ryan Holt.
He says while they’ve made strides over time improving diversity within their department, he admits there’s still more work to do.
“We’ve got to do a better job as a police department to engage communities of color to convince them that law enforcement is a legitimate career to go into. Come be part of the solution,” Holt said.
That’s something he and Temple’s newly-hired Police Chief Shawn Reynolds, even on his eighth day on the job, both agree on.
“It’s not been sufficient progress. We still need to be bringing together folks of different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, languages, so that we can learn and begin to develop strong relationships with one another,” Reynolds said.
The Waco Police Department swore in twelve new officers – a more diverse class – and with this new group, Chief Holt’s hope is that they begin developing trust within the community right away. He says in the current climate, he’s made this clear to the group.
“You may be the only time that this person dealt with a police officer in a year, two years or five years, but they’re going to leave there and they’re going to go tell at least five people how that interaction went. And so, we’ve got to be building that trust at every opportunity,” Holt said.
Reynolds in Temple says he’s observed some of the recruiting process at Temple PD – and so far, he’s working on implementing practices to improve results.
“You can go to specific universities or colleges, go to places where folks, maybe, we traditionally haven’t spent time at, but there’s a good opportunity out there and certainly a wide swath of society that exists here in Texas to be going out and recruiting members,” said Reynolds.
He says his effort toward developing a more diverse force at Temple PD at this point is a top priority.
“I think the benefit of a having a police department that represents the community is that it enables members of the community to actually start associating that with police legitimacy,” he said.
He says for those right there in Temple wanting to see a change in policing, they should get involved.
“Don’t just sit on the sidelines. If you want to affect change inside police departments around the United States, then come talk to us. Join us. Fill out an application. Come apply with us and be part of the change that’s going to occur in law enforcement moving forward,” he told FOX44 News.