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Black Chiefs Meet, Discuss The Benefits of Cop Diversity

The issues that plague top police leadership roles' reputation in Black communities — excessive uses of lethal force, racial profiling, and routine brutality from officers — have become increasingly prominent instead of becoming relics of the past. That reality has been exacerbated by the beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and the in-custody restraint death of Irvo Otieno involving Virginia sheriff’s deputies. Part of the problem is that too many Black police leaders “walk on eggshells” about addressing bad policing and racism in the force, said Terrence Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association of Dallas, a police department tactical special events planner. “You’re still in a conservative, white male-dominated profession and these guys still have to buy into you. If they don’t buy into you, they’re calling for your job,” he said. It is rare for Black police chiefs to believe their mere presence subverts systemic racism in the profession. Still, as the number of Black law enforcement professionals leading major police departments increases, so do the opportunities to show that diversity on the force can foster better relationships, make policing fairer, and save more Black lives, current and former police leaders told The Associated Press.

This weekend, Black police chiefs, commissioners, sheriffs, and commanders from across the country will gather in Detroit for the annual CEO symposium of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). The agenda includes panels on diversity, equity, and inclusion; best practices for mental health responses in policing; and managing the response to mass shootings. This will be the first national symposium since the Nichols case reignited a national reckoning over police use of force and renewed the scrutiny sparked by massive racial justice protests over the death of George Floyd in 2020. The gathering takes place amid of a probe of Memphis police abuses by the U.S. Justice Department, as well as the agency’s report on police discrimination in Louisville. Former Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant says it is the duty of Black police leaders to educate the law enforcement profession on how to interact with “our community.” He joined the law enforcement profession in large part to ensure the Black community enjoyed the same level of police service and safety that white residents received. “One of the things that I feel privileged about is that, as a Black chief, it gave me the ability to go into certain communities and homes and really hear people and hear their true plight,” Bryant said. “In some communities, they don’t have that same trust, if the person was white.”


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