DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — In a region still divided on issues from social unrest to police reform, what’s the solution?
Black police chiefs across Palm Beach County held a discussion Thursday entitled "Building One America."
And some say representation is part of it.
Elizabeth Stroud, 20, is a Delray Beach community service officer, which means 10 hours a day she is looking for parking violations, responding to traffic complaints, crashes and other miscellaneous calls, independently.
She is one of a few minority females in the field.
"I think there should always be representation -- no matter where you go," said Stroud. "It brings people together, in my opinion."
Stroud, who wants to be a sworn officer when she turns 21, spent her high school years as a member of Atlantic High School's Criminal Justice Academy. Even then, she was one of a few minorities.
"It's all about the cultural differences," said Stroud. "It’s easier for me to connect with certain people just because of who I am."
Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro A. Sims is one of four black police chiefs who addressed social justice, police reform and community engagement.
Sims believes part of the solution is more representation in policing.
"We're surrounded by it. So, you are either going embrace it or ignore it," he said. "Diversity is needed and necessary for all of us to function on one accord."
And he is committed to that. Since becoming chief in November 2018, 79 percent of new hires have been minority sworn officers.
He said Atlantic High School's criminal justice academy is a feeder program for his department.
"The vast majority of those kids in that program are minority kids. Currently, we have approximately 12 people working in this department that came out of that Atlantic High school program," Sims said.
And in a few months, they'll have another.
"I just feel like it's a new day and age. We just got to go out there and get it," Stroud said.