Updated: December 22, 2020 08:35 AM
Created: December 21, 2020 06:50 PM
(ABC 6 News) - The world is looking at law enforcement in a different light following the death of George Floyd. However, for many in the Black community, unjust, profiling and fear is the only thing they've ever known.
With the world's demand for reform and changes to the policing system, I took on the opportunity to see if a change is really happening. In a partnership with the Rochester Police Department, I attended the eight-week training process alongside eight new recruits. Asking questions like how do you police in 2020, and even moving forward? Well, RPD said it all starts with recruitment and who you allow in the department.
"We spend a lot of time trying to develop relationships before they graduate because if you don't do that, you're just in a race against other agencies," said Captian Jeff Stilwell.
The 25-year veteran now oversees the hiring process for the department. He said finding good officers that want to live in Rochester has always posed some kind of issue.
"If they don't have a connection to this community, they don't know us; they don't know what our agency stands for, we're just another police agency trying to get people in the door," he said.
Though most of the recruits in this class are from Minnesota, Stilwell said the department doesn't always get that lucky, and even when they do get Minnesota natives, the numbers fluctuate yearly.
"We're very active in the schools around the state that have law enforcement programs. We also advertise with the Minnesota post board or the licensing board and the HR team reaches out to various other publications," said Stilwell, and he adds that it's never really been about the numbers.
Eight new recruits are joining the Rochester police department, and Sergeant Paul Gronholz is in charge of training them. Gronholz said training is the most important part of becoming an officer, and a good officer knows the training never really ends.
"Anytime new officers start here, it's an exciting time," said Sgt. Gronholz, but what is RPD looking for in an officer?
Coming into the process, I expected officers with experience in law enforcement would be the ideal recruit, but according to Capt. Stilwell, it's the opposite.
"We look for people of character and lived experience that might not be police experience. We find it much easier to train the job skills of a police officer than it is to teach values that we value here," he said.
Chief Jim Franklin said one of his main goals when he took office was hiring officers who demonstrate compassion and diversity. To date, the RPD has 146 officers, not including the recruits.
128 officers are white. If you break those numbers down even further, there are 109 men and 19 women. The 18 remaining officers are minorities. Five Black men, six Hispanic men, two Asian men, 2 American Indian men, and three multicultural officers.
"The police department needs to be a reflection of the community. We're getting better. We're growing, we're becoming more diverse, and I'm happy with what we have here in this academy," said Gronholz.
The recruits consist of four women, two immigrants males and two white males. During the eight-week training process, the new officers will learn about new policies, building relationships in the community, and understanding the importance of both physical and mental health.
"Mentally, they'll be tested; physically, they'll be tested," said Sgt. Paul. "There's a lot of stressors associated with this first eight weeks. Use of force, report writing, qualifying with their firearms, and like I said, some of the physical things that we'll do, is going to be tough."
Gronholz said the job won't be easy, but he applauds the new recruits for coming into this profession during a time like this. His job moving forward is setting them up to succeed.
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