WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Part of “Continuing the Conversation” includes diversity in law enforcement.
There’s criticism and concern over a lack of diversity nationwide when it comes to men and women wearing a badge. The Justice Department acknowledged it’s a problem.
KSN News spoke one on one with the head of the Kansas Highway Patrol to get his take about diversity in law enforcement.
“I got the talk from my parents, and it was about making sure when I’m out and about to make sure I got home, to make sure I was safe and if I encountered a police officer which I did,” said KHP Superintendent Col. Herman T. Jones. “I’ve always had just that inner bit of just wanting to do right.”
With more than 40 years in law enforcement, Jones looks at the nationwide protests from two perspectives.
“The one thing that becomes troubling, is the destruction to get the point across,” said Jones. “I get it, when people are upset, emotions are driven.”
Perhaps emotion-fueled looting and vandalism in recent weeks across the U.S. This reminded Jones of times when he started in law enforcement responding to domestic disturbance calls.
“We really have to be more intentional with our relationships with the public,” added Jones.
KSN News asked Jones is it safe to say there’s not too many African Americans in law enforcement in the state of Kansas, let alone in the leadership role like you’re in?”
“We are not reflective of our population,” said Jones as he felt there’s a lack of diversity in law enforcement.
A study from the Justice Department found whites made up between 72-78% of all police departments and sheriff offices across the U.S. When it comes to leadership roles, whites made up nearly 90%.
KSN also asked are law enforcement agencies missing the mark when it comes to building relationships, what can they do differently?
“It’s hard to say because it depends on the community,” said Jones. “Not not saying that hurt doesn’t go away, but people can understand and the more people can understand with what we deal with law enforcement the better, but it goes both ways.”
When it comes to police reform, Jones said “community policing” is the first step to rebuilding trust with the public. But he also said he’s open to a conversation about changing or removing “qualified immunity.”