Police Officers Talk Diversity at County Council Meeting (VIDEO & PHOTOS)
It was nearly a two-hour conversation about the relationship between police and the community on June 9 at Montgomery County Council session in Rockville.
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger, along with assistant chiefs and districts commanders, held a conversation that included body cameras, use of deadly force, diversity in the department and more.
“I think that any discussion about relationship between the police and the community has to start with three questions: is the police department hiring the right people, are they being properly trained, does the police department have a culture of integrity and accountability? Of course the answer to all these questions needs to be yes,” Manger said.
Despite incidents in Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York, Manger said that police and community relations are overall better in Montgomery County.
“Since last August police involving shooting in Ferguson Missouri started a number of national conversations. Conversations about the use police force, especially use of deadly force, people asking does their police department reflect the diversity of the community,” Manger said.
But recruiting minority candidates is not always easy. Assistant Chief Betsy Davis said the department is actively searching for Latino and Asian officers.
“We tried our best. We had success, but we don’t have success hiring hundreds. It’s limited. And the African-Americans that I talk to today will say ‘Why do I want to go into policing? Especially in light of everything happening,” Davis said.
Councilmembers learned about officers’ concern and said getting organizations such as Montgomery College involved could help the department recruit candidates from a diverse background.
Councilmember Craig Rice said the message to young people out there should be “It’s about giving back to your community.”
“Do your part for your community and become a police officer. And maybe it is something that we need to talk to the county executive about in terms of campaigning. I mean, if you’re having those kinds of challenges, those are the kind of things that we do,” Rice said.
Manger added the department is “making progress” when it comes to diversity.
“We are trying to recruit the best candidates. Minority candidates. African Americans, Latino, Asian. … There’s a lot of good police departments in the Washington metropolitan region. So we struggle because there’s competition for those candidates. But I have to say we are making progress. I took a snapshot from tens years ago … [and] we are doing better in those categories. We’ve doubled the number of Latino officers. We’ve increased the number of Spanish-speaking officers. We’re making progress in those categories but is not as fast as we want to make it,” Manger said.