WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Improving community police relations is a goal in neighborhoods nationwide especially following several high-profile clashes in minority communities. One solution is to develop police forces that reflect the people they serve. But it has become more of a challenge in one Virginia county with every graduating police recruit class.
Prince William County is a big melting pot with the population about 60 percent Caucasian and the other 40 percent that include a mix of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and others.
There were 44 graduates in the latest police recruit graduating class in Prince William County. But there are questions being raised if this class is a reflection of the community they will serve.
Looking back at previous classes, there appears to be a lack of diversity. FOX 5 asked the police department about this and a spokesperson admitted they have had problems creating a more diverse force and that questions were raised outside of the department after the last graduating recruit class.
Police said the goal is to do the very best they can to reflect the community and the department admits it is falling a bit short, but it is not due to a lack of effort. The police spokesperson also said the department makes every effort to hire minorities and they are very proud to be able to do that.
Despite the visuals, police said they actively recruit at historically black colleges and minority institutions and strive to be reflective of their community.
There was mixed reaction about this from county residents we spoke with.
“The issues that we have seen with police shootings and things of that sort, I think it would be helpful for Prince William and all other surrounding counties to ensure that they are recruiting minorities,” said VaShawn Guice Veal.
“I don't see any African American or any other race and that is an issue for me,” said Marie Mobley. “It’s just not a good look because this gives the appearance of this is all we need, this is all we want.”
Should police departments reflect or mirror the communities that they serve?
“No, I don't think so,” said Michael Miller. “I think they need community policing. They need to be out amongst the community.”
“It would be nice if we had a good mix,” said Sergio Mendez. “It doesn't necessarily need to be one or the other."
Prince William County police said in a statement:
"We have very high standards when it comes to law enforcement and those standards need to be met in order to have the trust of the public. When we are receiving applications, sometimes they meet the qualifications and sometimes they don't. We do have screening that takes place and if they meet those qualifications we would welcome anyone."
Police said there is always more they can do and they are constantly working to improve. There are about 600 sworn officers in the department.