Dubuque's first black cop: 'Trying to be best officer I can'
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Billy Dieujuste is Dubuque's first black police officer to make it through all the required training
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
The City of Dubuque now has its first-ever African-American police officer.
City leaders say that marks a step in the direction of diversity and inclusively, but there's still room to grow.
Dubuque police officer Billy Dieujuste has wanted to be a cop since he was a kid.
"Me and my brother, we both used to buy cop toys and watch it on TV, so it's something we grew up with," he said Monday night while getting ready for his overnight shift.
Dieujuste has been on solo patrol with the Dubuque Police Department since October, after fulfilling all the required training. He's the first African-American Dubuque officer to make it past training.
For Dieujuste, however, living his childhood dream isn't about the color of his skin.
"I'm just trying to be the best officer I can, just loving the job, so I never sat down and really thought about it. It hasn't really sunk into me yet," he said. "I just want to be a well-rounded officer, you know, go out and do my job everyday."
"Billy is a quality individual. He earned this," Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing said.
Of Dubuque's nearly 100 fully-trained officers, Dalsing said, one is black, two are Hispanic and about 15 are women.
Compare that to the Dubuque's 2010 Census results, where 4 percent of the population is black, 2.4 percent is Hispanic or Latino and females make up just over half the population.
"Part of it just comes down to the demographics of the state of Iowa," Dalsing said. "I mean, we're a very white state, and Dubuque County is no different, and generally you draw a large sampling from your local community."
But ideally, Dalsing said, his staff would more closely reflect the diversity of the community.
He cited Inclusive Dubuque, a new city-wide initiative to make the city a more welcoming community to newcomers and longtime residents alike.
"That's one of the questions you ask," Dalsing said. "How can somebody feel welcome if the people that are serving them don't look like them? If you come to a place where everybody looks the same and you're the only one that looks different, it's very hard for you to feel welcomed."
Dubuque City Council member Lynn Sutton knows what it's like to blaze trails. In 2011, she became the city's first black city council member.
"When you have a more balanced police force, or whether it's a corporation, medical staff, whatever, it does help to say, 'Hey, there's someone there I can relate to,'" Sutton said.
She said the police department's first black officer to make it through training is a step in the right direction, especially as a role model for people of minority groups in Dubuque.
"He can be that example, because now they may think, 'Hey, I can do this,' or, 'It's possible,' because if you don't see anyone in that field that looks like you, you get the idea, 'it's not for me,'" Sutton said.
"We want the best candidates possible to put out on the street," Dalsing said, "but we also have to be mindful that we want to mirror the community as much as we can."
He said Dieujuste, like many officer hopefuls, applied several times before getting hired in January and then trained.
A second black officer is currently making his way through training right now: Dieujuste's older brother, Wilkens Dieujuste.
The department has hired three other African Americans in the past, but they were a part of the 20 percent of new officers who don't make it through Dubuque's rigorous field training program.
Billy Dieujuste moved from his home in Miami, Fla., to Dubuque three years ago to attend the University of Dubuque and live closer to his brother, who was also in the Key City.
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