Durham PD 'moving in the right direction' on diversity

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- A newly-minted class of Durham police officers got their badges Friday night. They were welcomed to the force in a ceremony at the Durham Convention Center. DPD has faced criticism for a lack of diversity within the department. And it has struggled to recruit minority candidates.

Michael Grissom, 21, who is African-American, was one of the 18 brand new Durham police officers sworn-in to the force.

"Honestly, I've always wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid," Grissom said. "It's a lifelong dream."

Officer Grissom said, "He has some big shoes to fill." His father retired last May from DPD after 28 years as a Durham cop.

"I did not want my son to be a police officer," Mike Grissom said. "However, for him to become a police officer, I can't think of anyone I would more highly recommend to be a police officer."

This proud father's initial hesitance about his son's career choice was in part a concern over anti-police feelings that spread after controversial police-involved shootings across the country - followed by riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charlotte.

"Law enforcement has changed. The respect for law enforcement has changed," said the elder Grissom.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel told the recruits it's time to rebuild the department's bond with the community.

"Chief (C.J.) Davis talked about trust. In Durham, we're going to build trust. We're going to do it right," Mayor Schewel said in his remarks at the ceremony.

For the city, part of that trust rebuild is about diversity-- Ensuring the police force looks more like the city it serves.

Chief Davis says this may be the most diverse class of recruits since she was hired in 2016: 11 Caucasians, 4 African-Americans, 3 Latinos..

"We can do more. We can do better," Davis told ABC11. "When I first came, I think my first class was an all Caucasian class. And we've made deliberate and intentional efforts to identify candidates, qualified candidates that represent diversity and represent the community here in Durham."

Since Chief Davis arrived, Durham has been sweetening the pot to lure in more recruits: A $5,000 signing bonus for new officers; and offering $3,500 for moving expenses.

The chief is convinced those efforts are bearing fruit. She says next season's police academy class is even larger: 30 new officers.
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