SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Six new recruits were welcomed to the South Bend Police force Wednesday from what's considered the most diverse and well-educated class from the academy ever.
Since events in Ferguson, Mo., President Barack Obama created a task force to address tensions between law enforcement and communities. It was highly publicized that the Ferguson Police force was more than 90 percent white, in a community with less than 30 percent white citizens. So while transparency and training were also highlighted in the President's task force, diversity is a point of emphasis as well.
South Bend and other cities across the country are doing their best to hire a qualified, diverse police force and Wednesday was the first step in creating a force that better reflects the community.
"It's very important that we have a police force that reflects the community it serves," South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said. "We're going to continue driving to make sure we have excellent, qualified minority applicants and excellent applicants from all backgrounds. We see that in this class and we're planning on seeing that in future classes too."
Six people received their badges today; four white males, an African-American male and a Hispanic woman. Currently, less than 10 percent of the South Bend Police force is black, even though 26.6 percent of the population is African-American. So this class is the first step in better reflecting the face of the community.
"South Bend is a very diverse community," South Bend Police Chief Ron Teachman said. "We want to have a department that is culturally competent, understands the community, brings a variety of perspectives to the work place and also, it should be said that we're trying to create a problem solving police department, working closely with the community to solve its issues with crime and quality of life."
Teachman says this newest class of 137 graduates from the academy are the most diverse and well-educated the state has seen. He hopes other police chiefs in the state are striving to reflect the community better like he's trying to do in South Bend.
"The officers have an understanding of the community because they come from it, even if they're not born and raised in South Bend, they understand the various cultural issues or demographic issues that go into a diverse community," Teachman said. "They can discuss that in the work place and help their fellow officers understand different perspectives."
"Few positions in the city are more important than the police officer," Buttigieg said. "The officer is on the front lines of not only law enforcement but of the relationship between the community and the city. It's vitally important that we have good officers. We have six very promising officers here with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. A lot of diversity in where they come from and how they approach the job. That's a good thing. The issue of how the police and community relate to each other is at its most sensitive and talked about in years. It's more important than ever that we recruit great officers and I think these six officers are a very promising example of what's to come."