DANVILLE — The city’s mayor says there are not enough minorities on the police force. With a growing minority population in the community, he says that needs to change.
Cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh are actively trying to diversify their police departments. The idea is to make the force more reflective of the community, and that holds true in Danville. Minorities make up less than 5% of the police force. The hiring window is a few months off, but the mayor says recruiting starts now.
Born and raised in Danville, Damara Joyner has a passion for her hometown. Enough to run for alderman in 2017. She says she’ll jump at most opportunities to improve the city, much like the police officers she sees in action.
She says, “I’ve seen them showing up to the roughest communities, passing out color books, crayons.”
City leaders say they hope the kids they meet will grow up and want to do the same thing. Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says right now it’s not working like they would hope.
“Before we were much more reflective in our police division of the community as a whole. Today that’s not the case, ” he says.
Of the 64 officers on the Danville Police Department, 61 are white, 2 are Hispanic and 1 is black. The mayor says that’s a reflection of who isn’t applying for the job. He and Joyner agree having more minorities on the force could help build trust between police and the minority community.
Joyner says, “When there’s confrontation or whatever, they might be more calm to see that there’s an officer that resembles them, then they’ll feel like they’re being less picked on.”
Eisenhauer says sometimes the problem isn’t as complicated.
“Particularly with a growing Hispanic population that we have in the community, it would be a considerable advantage to have Hispanic members of our police division who we believe would be able to communicate with them.”
The mayor says having more minorities patrolling the streets would help solve immediate problems, and also recruit the next generation of Danville police officers.
He says, “I think then it gives, particularly our younger residents, the opportunity to look up, see people who look like them in role model positions, and then want to emulate that.”
The police department isn’t taking applications until spring. They’re hoping to see more people apply in general in addition to minorities. The mayor says the city is working with the local NAACPchapter, churches and other organizations to spread the word.
Here’s how Danville police force compares to Champaign’s regarding minority officers. As we said less than five percent of Danville’s officers are minorities are not white. In Champaign it’s less than 14%. Out of 121 officers up to the chief 16 are minorities with 9 black, 4 Hispanic, and 2 Asian.