At Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., Police Chief Gary Hill has started the first police academy at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), reports 13 KRCG TV. Chief Hill explaining that he wanted to increase the minority footprint in law enforcement agencies.

Chief Hills says the lack of inclusivity and feeling like outcasts is why many law enforcement agencies lose diverse candidates. Hill says he was worried that social upheaval may deter many students from enrolling in the middle of 2020, but the opposite happened, reports Time.

Some 27 students applied, with 14 not admitted due to financial and background check issues, and two dropped out for personal reasons, says Hill.

The academy steers away from the military style teaching methods that traditional police academies have been criticized for using, and a huge chuck of the curriculum focuses on de-escalations strategies, says Hill. Still, some of Lincolns students worry about their chances for success, especially due to the way communities of color view police and concerns over being potentially the only Black officer in a department.

According to a 2018 survey by the University of Southern Mississippi of more than 770 U.S. criminal-justice students, 28 percent of Black respondents said their family and friends would not approve of their becoming a patrol officer. Police chiefs say these cultural perceptions and family objections are major obstacles that prevent many recruits of color from applying.

Jackson County (MI) Sheriff Darryl Forte said that he was thrilled to learn about the academy at Lincoln, as it is very significant and plans to recruit at the University, but cautions that just adding more minority officers “is not going to change systemic racism in law enforcement right away. And racism is real,” reports the Kansas City Star.

Gabriela Felitto is a TCR Justice Reporting intern

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