Attorney General Mark Herring today announced that Danville and Martinsville will pilot an initiative to help law enforcement agencies recruit more minority applicants and build police departments that reflect the cultural and racial makeup of the communities they serve.
A $50,000 grant from the Office of the Attorney General will pay for a survey in the two cities to identify barriers to minorities to joining local police forces. The survey will contact community members, churches, civic organizations, civic leaders and schools. The data and the subsequent recruitment strategies that result from it will form the basis for a model that can be shared statewide.
Herring said the two cities are uniquely suited to pilot this program.
“Both Danville and Martinsville have community policing efforts in progress, but are seeking new and innovative ways to ensure their police force is reflective of their communities,” Herring said at a news conference held at Bible Way Cathedral in Danville. “We need from young people from all backgrounds to dream of becoming law enforcement officers when they grow up. This, I admit, will take time, but having a diverse police force is a critical step in that direction, and we are working on that right now, here today.”
Danville’s population is 49 percent African American, with 19 African American officers out of 128 and African Americans making up 20 percent of the officers in command posts. Martinsville has a 45 percent African American population, with four African American officers out of 51, including one in command staff.
“The statistics reveal a gap, but they do not reveal a lack of effort,” said Herring, who noted that law enforcement leaders in Danville and Martinsville have been working with public schools, community colleges, churches and community organizations to try to recruit qualified diverse candidates.
“.… Ultimately, they recognize that they must dig deeper into the culture, beliefs and experiences of their communities to find the right strategies. This program will help evaluate barriers to recruitment and sentiments toward law enforcement with a survey of community members. It will start to get to the core of the issue and develop solutions to start implementing change.”
Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders introduced Herring at the news conference. They were joined by Danville Police Chief Philip Broadfoot, Danville Deputy Police Chief Dean Hairston, Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn, Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul, Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor and Bible Way Cathedral pastor Apostle Lawrence Campbell Sr.