PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. - Prince William County's police chief admits there's a problem within his department, and it does not look anything like the community it serves.
“Our police department is not where it needs to be in terms of diversity and I recognize that. We all do,” said Prince William County Police Chief Barry Barnard.
Barnard is responding to video posted on the department’s Facebook page highlights its most recent recruit class – three are Latino, three are African American and three are Asian.
Numbers are up for the current class but all agree the department’s demographics do not reflect the community it serves. “This is an issue, quite frankly for law enforcement across America and here in Northern Virginia,” said Chief Barnard in an interview with Fox 5’s Tisha Lewis.
Chief Barnard says there are many challenges including competitive salaries from other jurisdictions, finding homegrown talent and the national dialogue on race and police confrontations is proving to be a tough hill to climb.
“Perhaps the national conversation has something to do with it, in terms of recruiting folks, who the imagery of police work, people question, wow, is this really what I want to do,” said Chief Barnard.
“Officers are perceived, any time when they've done something that garners great national attention through social media, is that a concern for people who think, gee, do I want to get into police work,” said Barnard.
Beyond diversity, the department is tackling another jarring statistic – its homicide rate more than doubled in 2016.
“Certainly we have to do everything we can to focus on gang activity, drug dealers,” said Barnard. “We're going to continue to focus on those issues, domestic violence, gang activity, drug dealers, guns are an issue of course and so we're going to do everything we can to have a positive influence on that,” said Barnard.
The social media savvy agency will likely post on its platforms which the chief admits, the continual crime updates may contribute to people feeling unsafe.
He assures us, they are safe.
“I want them to be safe and I want them to feel safe. This is my community,” said Chief Barnard.
Barnard says he is hiring. The department is hosting a career fair on Saturday, April 1st 10:00am-2:00pm at the Western District Station located at 8900 Freedom Center Boulevard in Manassas, VA 20110.
For more information visit joinpwcpd.org.