After 22 weeks of intense training, the Chattanooga Police Department has 21 fresh faces in its ranks. And just over a third of them are women, making it the highest known percentage of female graduates since record keeping began, according to the department. But it's still struggling in recruiting other minorities.
"Our efforts in minority recruitment — I believe we're hitting the mark when it comes to just growing the number of female police officers we have in our city," Roddy told the Chattanooga City Council days ahead of Thursday's graduation ceremony.
This year's number is the result of a steady climb from 2014 when there were no women in that year's academy.
With the eight new female officers, that brings the department's total to 48 women who now wear the CPD badge, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said in a statement.
That includes Jesslyn Douglas, class president for 2019's second police academy. The first class graduated in February.
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"I wanted to become a police officer to help people[;] however, I didn't know in what aspect I wanted to serve," Douglas said in a statement. "I took a year or so after college to figure it out and chose to apply to the Chattanooga Police Department because I grew up in this area, went to school at UTC, and couldn't think of a better community to serve."
Additionally, five of the graduates are veterans.
Over the 22-week training period, cadets learned crisis intervention techniques, community policing, implicit bias training, defensive tactics and how to support victims of crime.
The Chattanooga Police Department has been trying to boost its number of minority officers for the last few years, and it has taken "deliberate steps" to increase its minority force, Roddy has said before.
And, while the department has had successes in recruiting more women, it has struggled with recruiting people of color.
From person-to-person recommendations with cash incentives to featuring minority officers in recruitment advertising and event promotion, the response has been minimal.
In May, only one person showed up to the department's minority recruitment fair despite promoting it more than 100 times across different media.
Current officers of color have pointed to news coverage and videos of police shootings and false arrests as creating tension between law enforcement and the public.
That tension dates back to the Jim Crow era and beyond, and has again come to a boiling point in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality. Here locally, allegations of police brutality and misconduct, including rape, sexual battery, and an allegedly illegal body-cavity search haven't helped.
Some local government leaders have said it's an issue that has hurt the law enforcement profession's image and will take time to fix.
Since October 2016, a pot of money has been waiting for people to claim their $500 reward — for every minority recruit who starts the police academy, the person who referred them receives $500.
Up until recently, department leaders have advertised the incentive, and there is still some money left.