Bellevue Police Department reaches diversity milestone
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but one photo, in particular, showing all of Bellevue’s Black officers together during training for new recruits recently, only needs one - ‘representation.’
Sergeant Howard Banks says his brothers in blue are all close, but if words aren’t enough, all you need is five minutes with them in a room to see that.
During their interview with 6 On Your Side, Sgt. Banks, an 18 year veteran of the department, and Officer Jonathan Hobbs, the youngest tenured officer with a year and a half under his belt, treated each other with a warmth only genuine friends could display.
Despite their difference in time with the department and difference in rank, a clear level of respect and admiration for the other was evident and, when asked about their relationships with the rest of the department, both men shared the same excitement and positivity.
“We joke a lot,” said Sgt. Banks, adding “we also fit in well with the other officers and employees around here of any culture. It’s great having diversity because we can all teach each other.”
Banks says his childhood on the east coast, his race, and experiences with the department, help him navigate various situations in a way that another officer may not.
But he says it works both ways, and he learns from his colleagues just the same.
That’s part of what drew Officer Jonathan Hobbs to the department.
Growing up in Bellevue, Hobbs said he always knew he wanted to be behind the badge, but there was some hesitation.
“I was concerned because growing up, I didn’t see Black cops,” Hobbs shared.
But when he started his journey with BPD, instead of a culture of competition, he says it was one of mentoring.
As in many other important factors, Sgt. Banks says is necessary to diversify the force.
“Some people of color may feel like ...’ohhh I may not be accepted’....so I feel that it’s our job with recruiting to say ‘hey..you’re going to be welcome here!” said Sgt. Banks.
When it comes to diversity, the department of 103 sworn officers is doing better than it ever has.
12% are minorities and of those, five are black, the most to ever be on the department at once.
“We don’t plan on stopping and saying hey we have 6% so we’re ok...Nah, want to basically break that ceiling and I want a high representation of people of color on this department,” said Sgt. Banks.
That number may not sound like a lot but it’s just shy of the city’s racial makeup and their goal is to get more aggressive.
“Diversity is important. A police department should look like the community they’re serving,” said Sgt. Banks.
That effort starts early.
As a school resource officer, Hobbs builds relationships with middle school students every day. Just recently he subbed for a choir class.
“It was light-hearted and we got to have fun. They got to ask me questions...then I flipped it and asked them questions,” said Officer Hobbs.
Bellevue Police officers also represent their Latino, Asian, and Pacific Islander neighbors, and pretty soon, they’ll be making the push to recruit more women.
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