CROSSETT, Ark. (06/03/20) — The police chief of the Crossett Police Department is hoping to make some changes within his department in light of recent and past incidents happening across the nation.
Following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed by a former Minneapolis police officer, Chief J.W. Cruce began thinking of ways to fix his local community and bridge the gap between residents and police officers.
Cruce is in the process of completing a master’s degree in social justice and criminology at Delta State University but isn’t waiting to put his education and former experience into use.
Cruce taking a strong stance against racism. He believes it shouldn’t have any place in our nation or in the city of Crossett and it will not be tolerated in his department.
“I can’t fix the the federal guidelines of disparity,” he said. “I don’t have the power to rewrite that law but what I do have the power to do is to train the officers here to better understand members of this community.”
Cruce was devastated watching the video of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin and the three other officers are now facing charges for that incident.
“Anyone who watched the video should be appalled whether you’re law enforcement or not,” he said. “The officers were in the wrong. That was so far beyond a mistake. It was negligence.”
Floyd’s death and systemic racial injustice has sparked outrage in communities across the nation. Even those in Crossett have cried out for help in the past week, seeking justice, equality and end to police brutality.
Chief Cruce has spoken with his officers and reminded them of how they’re expected to conduct themselves on and off duty.
Currently, federal and state laws mandate that officers must take an annual racial profiling class online or in person but the chief is hoping to do more by offering an additional class that will teach officers about cultural integration.
“Nothing in the law enforcement training teaches us about other cultures,” he said.
So, he has spoken with African Americans in his department to help him form a class that will be informative for all to understand perception and how to deal with other races and backgrounds.
“If you’re a white cop you need to learn about Hispanic culture, African American culture, Asian culture and it’s not just a one way street,” he said. “If you’re an African American you need to learn about white culture, Asian culture.”
His vision for the class is to bring in those in the department and others in the community share their issues, concerns and perspective to really bring about change as a whole.
“We have to learn about each other and we have to embrace these cultural differences that we have if we’re truly going to make change,” Chief Cruce said. “I will never hire anyone that has any level of bigotry. Our oath is to protect everyone. It’s not for a certain class or gender of people. It’s for everyone.”
His goal is to bring people together which is why the department is working together with the city to host a fellowship gathering to stand with community against police brutality and social injustice.
He will speak along with Mayor Crystal Marshall and religious leaders in the community. There’s a lot of work to be done but he knows one day there will be some change and he’s willing to be the lead.
The gathering will begin at 5 p.m.in front of the police department. There will be food and officials are urging everyone to wear mask and be socially distant.
“Let’s bridge the gap,” he said. “Let’s get to know each other as people.”