The DeKalb Police Department is working to attract diverse recruits and is adding a second full-time social worker.
Delivering the department’s annual report on Monday, Police Chief David Byrd (in photo) told the City Council that the department’s diversity is extremely important to him.
“When I walk into a roll call room, I want to see a picture of humanity,” said Byrd. “And I think we’re on our way to doing that.”
50 candidates were interviewed in the latest round of recruiting, and Byrd believes the top 10 candidates are “amazing.” They are made up of three women, three African Americans, two Hispanics and five Caucasians.
Byrd believes the candidates have been impressed with the attention that is being paid to them. The chief has done a shadow day with each of the top 10 candidates where they walk the beat together.
“It’s old school policing. I believe in that. I believe in walking the beat,” said Byrd. “I’ve had some of the most non-traditional conversations at the most non-traditional locations, and I think that’s the reason why this is important.”
The candidates also have lunch with the chief, talk with community members and have conversations with rank-and-file officers to get a better idea of the day-in-the-life of a DeKalb officer.
At the same time, the department continues to strengthen its community policing efforts.
Last year, the first licensed social worker was embedded in daily responses to help individuals and families find resources for crisis management and connections to social and mental health services.
City Manager Bill Nicklas has announced that a second full-time social worker will join the department on July 1. He says it is part of the continuing response to the social justice movement.
“The social justice movement demanded our attention, and we gave our attention to it,” said Nicklas. “It affected the police department in a number of ways, including changes in procedures, accountability and transparency.”
Other initiatives have included:
- Posting department policies and disciplinary records,
- Changes to the use of force policy
- Emphasizing “duty to intervene”
- Implementation of body cameras
- No expungement of disciplinary action
- Adoption of the NAACP and Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police 10 shared principals
- New hiring and promotion process with increased education standards, rigorous background investigations and targeted recruitment efforts among diverse communities
- Cultural diversity, de-escalation and procedural justice training
DeKalb Police officers took part in 3,800 hours of training last year. Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre notes that comes out to 55 hours per officer.
“It’s just amazing the amount of training that was undertaken this past year,” said Faivre.
The Council, City staff and Chief Byrd all thanked Commander Bob Redel and former Deputy Police Chief John Petragallo for leading the department in an interim role during challenging times that included the COVID-19 pandemic.