Some police departments around the area lack diversity, and it’s not any different in Frederick County, Va., but a new scholarship fund aims to change that.
“In order to be effective in that community, you really need to reflect that community,” said Winchester chief of police, Kevin Sanzenbacher.
That’s why Sanzenbacher would like to see the the Fredrick County/Winchester Police Department Law Enforcement Foundation’s $2,000 Selma College Scholarship go to someone who is a minority and studying to become a member of law enforcement.
“We’re hoping that by giving them a scholarship inducement to a higher education that will encourage some minority youth to become interested in law enforcement, and expand the pool of qualified applicants that we see later on down the road,” Sanzenbacher said.
According to the recent Census Winchester’s population is about 16 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 11% African American.
But there are only two officers at the Winchester Police Department who are minorities, because, according to the chief, not many minorities apply to be officers at WPD.
“We’re under represented as a department and as a profession with minority candidates, and of course with all the things going on locally and on a national level we do feel it’s important to have minority candidates within our organization and within the profession,” he said.
The most recent reminder of this was during D’londre Minifield’s death investigation earlier this year.
Police maintained that Minifield shot himself in the head while being chased through Winchester by city police officers, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney confirmed that information on Tuesday.
The chief said the events that followed Minifield’s death made it clear that something needed to be done about police force diversity.
Demonstrators flooded the streets of Winchester demanding answers about the death, because there was no video from the chase. During meetings with the chief and city officials, some demonstrators alleged racial profiling by the police, but said they didn’t feel comfortable reporting it.
The chief thinks diversity will make the police department more approachable.
“We feel it’s important for open communication, for the community feeling comfortable coming forward and reporting to us,” he said.
The Winchester Police Department has been making efforts to improve community relations for the last few years, by engaging in activities like Kids and Cops, and other programs designed to build positive relationships between law enforcement and youth in the community.
The chief said students must be enrolled in a secondary school and studying to become a member of law enforcement in order to qualify for the scholarship.