Po­lice cadets talk com­mu­nity di­ver­sity

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION - BY EMMETT GIENAPP STAFF WRITER

As part of an on­go­ing ef­fort to build trust and un­der­stand­ing, a class of cadets grad­u­at­ing from the Chat­tanooga po­lice academy pre­sented find­ings of a com­mu­nity im­mer­sion project dur­ing an event at the Camp House on Thurs­day.

The watch­word of the event was “di­ver­sity,” and cadets spoke can­didly about the rev­e­la­tions they had con­cern­ing the com­mu­ni­ties they soon will serve, in­clud­ing those of Lati­nos, Mus­lims and LGBTQ in­di­vid­u­als.

“It can be a po­lar­iz­ing word. But di­ver­sity is so im­por­tant and it’s some­thing that should be cel­e­brated, not feared,” said Joshua Woodrow, chap­lain for the Chat­tanooga Po­lice De­part­ment. “If you do [fear it], that will lead to mis­trust.”

“We are a very di­verse city and in some pock­ets of the neigh­bor­hood you could run into all kinds of eth­nic­i­ties. Don’t be afraid to be in­clu­sive to those peo­ple you find. If you only in­clude a small group who looks like you, walk like you, talk like you, you’ll ex­clude ev­ery­one else,” he said.

The goal of the pro­gram is to nur­ture an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion be­tween of­fi­cers and com­mu­nity mem­bers about what can be im­proved or changed to al­low of­fi­cers to work more ef­fec­tively in Chat­tanooga. Troy Rogers, the city’s pub­lic safety co­or­di­na­tor, said it is nec­es­sary for of­fi­cers to be ac­tively in­volved in those com­mu­ni­ties.

“That’s the kind of po­lice of­fi­cers we need. We need po­lice of­fi­cers who are go­ing to get out of their car and see what’s go­ing on,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to learn­ing more about Chat­tanooga’s com­mu­ni­ties, ef­forts are be­ing made in the de­part­ment to en­sure the of­fi­cers them­selves rep­re­sent vary­ing back­grounds.

Ac­cord­ing to num­bers pro­vided by a de­part­ment spokesman, 79 per­cent of Chat­tanooga po­lice of­fi­cers are white, 16 per­cent are black, and just un­der 4 per­cent are Latino. Po­lice Chief David Roddy said progress is be­ing made not only in re­cruit­ing, but in the con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place.

He pre­vi­ously told the Times Free Press that ef­forts are be­ing made to at­tract, re­cruit and re­tain di­verse ap­pli­cants, pri­mar­ily by en­cour­ag­ing of­fi­cers to main­tain per­sonal one-on-one con­tacts with ap­pli­cants through the process. He said touch­ing base with ap­pli­cants con­sis­tently “gives them stake.”

He said some of the largest im­prove­ments have been made by build­ing on those con­nec­tions and iden­ti­fy­ing road­blocks that might be pre­vent­ing grad­u­a­tion.

“I ab­so­lutely be­lieve it’s im­prov­ing,” Roddy said.

“Those re­la­tion­ships are im­prov­ing, and I’m en­cour­aged by the strength and vol­ume of those con­ver­sa­tions we’re hav­ing ev­ery day,” he said. “Our com­mu­nity is a di­verse range of per­spec­tives and faces.”

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