EDENTON, N.C. – An eastern North Carolina police chief said he tries to frame police work as a form of service when he recruits black and "Latinx" officers.

  • At least 40 police departments and 20 sheriff's offices in North Carolina are led by African Americans
  • Eleven percent of police officers and four percent of chiefs nationwide are black
  • Chiefs say they want young people of color to see law enforcement as a viable career option

Henry King became the chief of the Edenton Police Department in 2018. He is one of at least 40 African American police chiefs in the state. Combined with North Carolina's 20 black sheriffs, King said he believes the state has a record number of African Americans in law enforcement leadership roles.

King said he wants young black North Carolinians to see law enforcement as a viable career option. He said getting them involved is the best way to improve relationships between police and communities of color.

“If we're going to help change the narrative about police officers, treating people, or not treating African Americans or any other people of color with respect and dignity, then allow me to hire your sons and daughters so we can help change the narrative from within,” he said.

Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said the recruiting process should start young. He said prospective officers should start talking to their local police chief or sheriff as early as middle school if they have any interest in law enforcement. 

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks consistently accounted for about 11 percent of all of the country's sworn local, county, and state officers between 1997 and 2016. Four percent of chiefs and sheriffs in 2016 were African American. This was the first time such data was collected for supervisor positions.