Conway, Arkansas -
CONWAY, AR - The Conway Police Department is working to diversify its force, hoping it will better help interaction in the growing community.
The department is holding an entry level police officer exam in the coming weeks. Police Chief A.J. Gary says it's important the people on his force should be a representation of the people in his community. Residents like Brandon Martinez, couldn't agree more.
"Being Hispanic, I'd like to see more Hispanics and women and even African Americans because it shows a diverse community," he says.
Martinez has lived in Conway for 20 years and says he would also like to see a break in the language barrier. He says more Spanish speaking officers would help the Hispanic community trust police and report crimes.
"They can't speak English to the officer, so the officer may misinterpret what they're trying to say," he says.
For Stephan Holmes, growing up in crime plagued neighborhoods inspired him to apply as an officer in Conway. He's not from the city, but believes black communities everywhere suffer when there aren't enough minorities patrolling the streets.
"When something happened there, There was no police that wanted to go into those neighborhoods because of how bad the neighborhood was," says Holmes, who's taking the officer exam.
Chief Gary is working to bring on more women, African Americans and Hispanics.
"We've come a long ways in the last few years," he says.
The police chief says about 16 percent of his staff are women and minorities. The department is working to grow that number, with progressive recruiting at career fairs, social media, and community interaction.
"The more minorities that we have taking our test, the better our chances are of increasing the numbers that we have employed," says Gary.
Chief Gary says police officer hopefuls get additional points for speaking more than one language.
"Being as diverse as the community that they work in. I think just the interaction is gonna be better," he says.
If you're interested in becoming a Conway Police Officer, you have to pre-register for the test by Monday, Aug. 25 by 4 p.m. The test is Sept. 3.
Click here for the online signup.