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Larry Wallace speaks to the Cleveland City Council at a June meeting.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland officials have called for more minorities and women to serve in the city's police department.

The city is planning a community reception, tentatively set for Aug. 26, in hopes of encouraging prospective recruits to apply for future vacancies in the Cleveland Police Department, law enforcement consultant Larry Wallace recently told the Cleveland City Council.

Certified police officers working for other agencies will be able to speak to Cleveland police officials informally during the event, Wallace said.

"Diversity is everyone," he said. "We feel very strongly about this event." In a June report, Wallace said the department's 87 sworn officers included seven women and seven black or Hispanic members.

Wallace, along with interim Police Chief Mark Gibson and City Councilman Avery Johnson, spoke recently about the department's diversity initiatives.

"We're dealing with perceptions — true, false or indifferent," Johnson said of recent "frank discussions" with the department's diversity committee. Those conversations are important and have touched upon some uncomfortable issues, he said.

"We need to focus on having more minorities and more women on our police force," Councilman Richard Banks said. "The public expects that."

The police department now has one woman going through the academy and it has hired an officer of Lebanese descent who previously served with the Chattanooga Police Department, Gibson said.

"We're not only looking into educational backgrounds, but years of experience, minorities, females — all those to try to blend together a diversity of officers that can help us solve all of our issues that we have in the community," he said.

"When you combine diversity and experience, you've got a winner," Wallace said.

The department also is acting on Wallace's recommendation to require leadership training as part of the promotion process and has added a leadership course to its curriculum.

He also has proposed that the police department hire a second resource officer for Cleveland High School and add six patrol officers, two narcotics detectives and a criminal intelligence analyst.

The first-year cost for these 10 positions is estimated at $1.1 million, dropping to $568,548 in the second year.

While Wallace said he considered all of the positions very important, he expressed concern for the safety of Cleveland High School because of its size and the number of exits from the building.

Funding the positions in the current fiscal year "is somewhat doubtful," said Wallace, who said he hopes they may be implemented over the next two budget cycles.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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