BARTLESVILLE, Okla. -- The Bartlesville Police Department is spearheading a diversity initiative to improve relationships in the community.
Lorront Carney grew up going to the Westside Community Center, and says diversity wasn't as much of a priority as it is today.
"When you used to say 'the west side', you thought of the black community solely," said Lorront Carney, Program Director of the Westside Community Center.
After spending years in the service, he's back home and recently attended a diversity meeting with the police department.
"If you get to know who’s in that car and that person in that car knows who they’re getting ready to talk to and approach it, kind of diffuses a lot of situations real quick," said Carney.
Carney says the African American community makes up about 37 percent of the city of Bartlesville.
"We had members of the Hispanic community, the Asian community, the black community, LGBTQ community," said Chief Tracy Roles, Bartlesville Police Department.
Chief Roles was approached with the idea by Sgt. Jim Warring who says out of the 24 years he's been on the department, these conversations haven't happened.
"We want to not only ask the difficult questions of the other groups but we want each group to be open and willing to hear the difficult answers," said Chief Roles.
The purpose is to be proactive about diversity, and get to know one another so there's little to no barriers between police officers and the citizens they protect and serve.
"We don’t want to be like some of the other communities who are trying as best they can to catch up only when something bad has happened," said Chief Roles.
Even though it's in the beginning stages, some say the hardest part of change is getting started.
"To be able to come back and be a part of what I hope to be a turning point in diversity, it gives me a good feeling," said Carney.
Chief Roles says they're working to schedule individual meetings with each representative so they can learn more about their questions and concerns. They eventually want to host a city-wide diversity forum with all groups and citizens invited to attend.
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