Census figures confirm Hall County is still growing, and if predictions hold true, becoming more diverse.
That’s why local law enforcement agencies are continuing to seek a force that looks like the community they police.
“It’s definitely important because your department should sort of mirror the community that you police in,” Gainesville Police Department spokesman Cpl. Joe Britte said. “We interact with, of course, a melting pot of cultures in the city limits of Gainesville.”
“From a cultural standpoint, you need to be able to communicate with people of other cultures and be able to understand some of their ideologies.”
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the department’s recruitment strives to reach every facet of the community.
“We serve a community that is diverse in nature, and we strive to have a diverse workforce that is a reflection of our community,” Bailes said. “Typically we advertise in the Spanish newspaper when we have job vacancies, and we will participate in several job fairs throughout the year, reaching out to high school and college graduates.”
Gainesville’s police take a similar outreach strategy, Britte said.
“We do a lot of recruitment fairs,” he said. “We put out a recruitment ad in Saludos.com, which is one of your No. 1 Latino recruitment websites and magazines. We also put out another recruitment ad in the prominent African-American websites.”
Bailes offered statistics on the demographics of Sheriff’s Office employees: a little more than 12 percent are African-American and about 5 percent Hispanic; 82.4 percent are white.
A point of emphasis for the Vision 2030 Committee, a project of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce aimed at establishing the long-term groundwork for a healthy, happy, thriving community, has been incorporating and embracing diversity.
At one meeting in the past year, the committee brought in demographers from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, who estimate that Hall’s Hispanic population will be one-third of residents by 2030. They constitute about one-fifth of current residents.
The Sheriff’s Office offers a 10 percent salary incentive for bilingual employees, Bailes said, to try and attract candidates, but the office still faces a shortage with fewer qualified people applying. Only about 60 percent of Hispanic and black students graduate high school, according to the same Carl Vinson Institute expert.
But both departments say the goal remains to hire the best candidates.
“With that said, we are always looking for qualified applicants without regards to race, creed or gender,” Bailes said.
“We’re constantly seeking qualified candidates to join GPD, and we welcome all walks,” Britte said.
In the end, he said, diversity is a staple of community-oriented policing, the enforcement philosophy agencies strive for.
“It’s important that every person feels empowered to reach out to law enforcement, not just on a reactive basis but on a proactive basis,” he said.