In Memphis, TN “More diversity, less brutality: The local partnership that could be a model for the nation” “Everyone Agrees”

Amid soaring crime, Memphis cops lowered the bar for hiring

Everyone does agree that more Black and brown cops are needed if true change is to occur.

More diversity, less brutality: The local partnership that could be a model for the nation

By Dominique Dillon, May 12, 2021 at 8:12 pm CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Over the last year and more, Black people being killed by police has been an issue rivaled only perhaps by the coronavirus.

How police interact with communities of color is an ongoing and divisive conversation.

One thing nearly everyone agrees on is that a more diverse police force is a critical component of any plan.

But achieving that diversity is a lot harder than simply asking for and funding it.

In Memphis alone, there are about 400 fewer officers than needed on the streets.

Recruiting efforts can come up dry and talking people into becoming cops, particularly people of color, is a tough task.

A historically Black college stated it is not only up to the task but also can be a model for the nation.

A study, published by the journal Science was done this year investigating the role of officer race and gender in police-civilian interactions, showed Black and Hispanic officers use force far less frequently than white male officers. The problem is few people of color want to be police officers, so a new look to the police force is going to take a new approach to target, acquire and train cops of color.

The city of Memphis, like police departments across the country, is pulling out all the stops to try and recruit new officers but continues to fall short.

According to its own web data, in 2020, more than 1,800 people applied to work for the Memphis Police Department, but only 53 candidates made the cut and graduated from the academy.

“A well-educated police officer is a better police officer,” said Sandra Vaughn, interim vice president of academic affairs at LeMoyne-Owen College.

What the city hasn’t done, according to community leaders, is tap into HBCUs.

Here in Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College isn’t waiting to be asked. It said it is stepping up and providing its best assets: its students.

The goal of a LeMoyne-Owen Law Enforcement Training Academy is to attract more minorities to a field that remains dominated by white males.

“We would house the program because we have classrooms,” said Vaughn. “We would definitely borrow their faculty, compliment their faculty with our faculty because we can’t do the job well if they’re not intricately involved.”

Many departments across the country are struggling to diversify their ranks. Others debate what true diversity looks like.

According to MPD, its department reflects the demographics of the community.

The logic? Black people make up 65% of the population in Memphis, and Black officers are 56% of the Memphis Police Department.

But not everyone agrees that sort of reflecting of the citizenry is the same as a true reflection.

Everyone does agree that more Black and brown cops are needed if true change is to occur.

The partnership could be a model for the nation.

FOX13 reached out to the Memphis Police Department several times regarding this topic, but no one got back to us.

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