Chief Echevarria aims to increase diversity among Peoria police force
Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria wants to build a more diverse force of officers.
“We need to have people in a department that look like the community and understand the community, so diversity is very, very important in that aspect,” Echevarria said during the Peoria County Bar Association’s 18th annual Diversity Luncheon, held virtually on Wednesday.
“And it's not just diversity in how you look, but diversity in how you think. You may be raised in a different area and you have different experiences, and that's what we need in a police department because it's people policing people. We need to understand people and really empathize with people and have that human touch that is often missed in policing.”
Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said this week that the department currently has 27 vacancies and the city’s proposed 2022 budget anticipates filling most of those openings.
“We've been approved for 30 slots in the next year's Police Training Institute at the academy, so we're going to try and hire as many police officers to fill those vacancies as we can,” said Urich.
Echevarria said the law enforcement profession is attracting a new breed of officers in response to the death of George Floyd and other high-profile instances of police brutality. He stressed that the PPD needs to take a more intentional approach to its hiring efforts.
“We need to expand where we recruit a little bit more, and we need to do some other strategies that we need to have in place,” he said. “But I think with the right strategies, the right things in place, what you're going to see is more women, more African-Americans, more Latinos, applying for these positions, because they see the change that is happening in law enforcement and they want to be part of that.”
Echevarria said the ability to communicate well – both verbally and in demeanor – is critical for officers.
“Communication is going to be the strongest and best asset to navigate through this job. Often times you see it when you're talking to somebody and you need to de-escalate a situation or you need to figure something out,” he said. “It's not necessarily the words that are coming out of your mouth, but how you carry yourself: where you put your hands, what you do with your hands when you're talking. It's an overall communication, what you say and what you look like.”