PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — When he took the job to lead Virginia’s second-largest police department, Chief Peter Newsham set out with a major goal to diversify the force.

The former chief of police in D.C. has served in the commonwealth for more than two years now, and DC News Now has obtained data through a Freedom of Information Act request that shows how that effort is going.

According to the data, in January 2021 — a month before Newsham was sworn in — 8.8% of officers in the county were African American, 11.3% were Hispanic, and 3.6% were Asian.

Now, two years later, 9% are African American, 13.9% are Hispanic and 3.6% are Asian.

The improvements, while small, have ensured the department has a higher percentage of officers in each of those categories since at least 2017.

“We still got a lot of work to do,” Newsham said.

In an interview with DC News Now, Newsham explained he set that goal because he believes it will help build trust between the department and the community, while also citing his own personal experiences.

“I tell everybody the best cultural sensitivity training I got was sitting in a police car with somebody who wasn’t like me, who was a friend and could tell me the differences where they grew up about their culture,” he said.

Rev. Cozy Bailey, the president of the county’s NAACP chapter, did not say whether he feels those numbers are adequate. But he did say the department is moving in the right direction to rebuild trust.

“Better trust means a little bit less apprehension when there are individual interactions with the police department,” Bailey said. “No fear that an interaction may devolve to something that is beyond a traffic stop, or any other interaction.”

The topic of diversifying the police department has been discussed before — as recently as a Public Safety Town Hall in February, hosted by Supervisor Andrea Bailey, whose husband is Cozy Bailey.

Randem Shivers, one attendee, told DC News Now, “that makes me feel good as someone of color living in this diverse community.”

Newsham told DC News Now he eventually wants the numbers to be ‘in the ballpark’ of the census estimates for the county, the most recent of which show it’s about 22% Black and just over 25% Hispanic or Latino.

“I’m hopeful that our leaders in our more diverse communities will stand up and start supporting young people to become police officers.

There are still people who question if a diverse department creates a more trustworthy department, but Newsham said a trustworthy department starts at the top.

“Diversity adds value to your agency, but the only way you’re going to have a solid agency is hiring really good people,” he said. “People of integrity, people who are service-minded, and then having proper controls in place.”

Newsham’s next challenge is to continue the trend of increasing diversity while hiring officers quickly. The data also shows PWCPD was down nearly 100 officers in January — Newsham told DC News Now it’s just over 80 now.