LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - Efforts are underway to hire more qualified minorities at police departments. This comes as incidents nationwide have caused tension between officers and community members.
"What we are trying to do is get into the community, build that trust, build up the dialogue," said Lt. Tony Crews with Lynchburg Police Department.
Crews has worked with the department for nearly 20 years. He said out of 166 sworn officers he is currently one of 32 minorities. The department wants to change that so its workforce better reflects the Hill City's population which is about 20 percent minorities.
Officers said having a more diverse police force can help improve community relations. They also said recruiting minorities is nothing new, they are just boosting their efforts and funding to do it.
Crews said money for posters and other recruiting materials recently increased from $6,000 to $14,000. Officers are also going to more schools, job fairs and Historically Black Colleges and Universities as ways to be more visible.
"To let them know that this is a viable job and we want you, we need you, the community needs you, the police department needs you" explained Crews.
Crews said the starting pay of about $36,000 has been a challenge in recruiting efforts, but he said the positive impact is rewarding.
"I think if someone is community-oriented, someone who wants to make a difference in their community then I think police work is something they should definitely look into," said Crews.
By increasing the number of qualified minority officers in Lynchburg, the department hopes to see crime drop and trust increase within the community.