As Chattanooga police cadets prepare to protect and serve, they're getting to know their community through an Immersion Program.
As a part of their training, the cadets interviewed citizens in all parts of Chattanooga to better understand how to improve police relations.
The cadets learned important cultural details to open their eyes to the people they will be protecting.
They spent over 50 hours in Chattanooga neighborhoods getting to know the people they will serve.
Cadets are split into groups to study different communities and get feedback from citizens about the force they are joining.
“I think what it says here is what we are doing is working,” said Justin Reynolds. “They see we're here to help then not here to hurt them or anything like that. We're here to do them a service.”
Justin Reynolds group spent time getting to know Brainerd students. He says they were not shy about their view of police officers.
“Some young people all they have is that phone in their hand they're on Facebook and Snapchat 24 7,” said Justin Reynolds. “So they'll see just a short clip of a situation that's happened somewhere a long ways away and not really know the whole story but they'll take it and run with it.”
The cadets learned they need to gain the trust of the African-American community. Spending time in the neighborhood when there isn't an emergency would likely help.
“They would walk around and introduce themselves to shop owners and different things like that and talk to different people in the community so I guess that's the best way to do it,” said Justin Reynolds.
Reynolds says it’s something he will try to do as he takes his place on the force.
In an effort to connect with all Chattanooga residents, the police department has been working to diversify the force.
One way they are doing that is through a minority internship, which provides opportunities to different ethnicities and women.