Washington – Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) Executive Director Anthony Chapa submitted a response in support of the call for comments from stakeholders in support of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as supported by the Office of Community Orientated Policing Services (COPS), within the Department of Justice (http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/).

On December 18, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Task Force seeks to identify best practices and make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust and examine, among other issues, how to foster strong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they protect. The Task Force is directed to provide an initial report on recommendations to the President by March 2, 2015.

Here is the report submitted on behalf of HAPCOA.

CROSS – CULTURAL POLICING IN THE 21ST CENTURY 

Testimony submitted in support of to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Listening Session on Building Trust and Legitimacy, held on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Delivered:  Thursday, January 15, 2015 

The Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) has for more than 40 years focused on law enforcement leadership issues, training, mentoring, promotions and concerns as they relate to our Hispanic communities nationwide.

With respect to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the changing nationwide demographics, which include the emerging Hispanic population, must be addressed and recognized, as the issues will forever change policing in the 21st Century.

US cities with growing dominate Hispanic populations will bring to bear issues associated with young and adolescent populations.  The issues will include: educational services drop out rates, truancy, employment opportunities, immigration requirements and language barriers.

Diversity in law enforcement will be a more visible and significant issue to be addressed by city, county, state and federal officials.  The call will be for diverse police forces as a requirement to instill confidence within Hispanic communities.  Today the number of communities with emerging Hispanic populations is growing at an exponential rate in areas of the country that are not found in states that historically have large Hispanic populations, such as California, Texas, Florida and New York.  Many of the new Hispanic communities are devoid of diverse police forces reflective of the neighborhoods that they serve and protect.

Active participation from community leaders, elected officials, and senior executives in law enforcement will be required for solutions.  These changes will begin with outreach to students – elementary aged children - as a way of creating a renewed positive image of law enforcement.  Additionally, the creation of recruitment teams supported by members of the community, elected officials and Hispanic law enforcement officials (of all ranks).  Support for this effort can be provided by organizations that have an established relationship with the Hispanic community – like HAPCOA.  A COPS grant in support of this effort would have positive results.

The active recruitment of additional Hispanics officers is only a beginning.  The departments must accept diversity in law enforcement as part of their strategic plans, with measurable and obtainable goals all in support of improved community relations, community outreach and effective policing.  Supporting all officers with specialized training that is sensitive to diversity and improved community liaison will be successful with mentoring and reinforcement.  A focus on “Cross-Cultural Police” training, embraced by police officers, will improve communications with the public.  This in return, improves the officers’ abilities to serve and protect without compromising their safety or the safety of the community.

Additional benefits will be obtained by providing by supporting officers with Spanish language training and by briefing officers on evolving social issues that will affect their abilities to provide law enforcement services.

Criminal Justice related perceptions and issues might also affect policing in the 21st Century.  Officers may find themselves responding to concerns, that while they are not directly related to policing issues, will need to be addressed by law enforcement to control rioting, crowd control, looting, peaceful demonstrations, etc.

HAPCOA also finds that the recruitment, training, mentoring and promotion of Hispanic American Police Command Officers will become a significant requirement in the 21st Century, if policing is to be successful in addressing the issues facing the Hispanic communities.

Executive Director Anthony Chapa delivered the following statement, in response to the issues surrounding the situation in Ferguson, MO, during the HAPCOA 41st Annual National Law Enforcement Training Symposium in San Antonio, TX on December 2, 2014:

The events which transpired in Ferguson and cities throughout the United States are indicators of the deep seated resentment among community members who believe their concerns are not being viewed as valid, worthy of attention, or consideration.

Law enforcement officers, imbedded as public servants, are entrusted to “maintain the peace” while fostering a safe environment where businesses and neighborhoods thrive.  Special attention must be given to understanding the cultural composition of individual communities.  Embracing differences and cultivating sameness encourages dialogue with members and may open avenues for change.  

More than ever, it is crucial to pursue solutions to the issues that are created when members of law enforcement and representatives of our criminal justice system are not reflective of the diverse populations they serve. 

Quick fixes cannot be attained by destroying property, looting stores, disrupting the peace, or endangering the well being of our fellow neighbors and police officers.  The underlying issues and sentiments that give rise to these actions cannot be ignored.

It is important to encourage and protect the right to protest peacefully; however, it is equally important to foster open dialogue with community and public leaders about meaningful systemic changes.

The time to forge a path is now.  Together, we must implement remedies that address the social ills we face while safeguarding the liberties, rights, health, and stability of our communities at large.  Establishing police agencies that resemble the communities they serve and protect, from leadership to street officers, is an integral step in the solution processes. 

A diverse community can be strong, inclusive, and united.  “Power in Unity for the Common Good” is HAPCOA’s motto and is strongly supported by its members.  

Thank you,
Anthony Chapa

Anthony Chapa
Executive Director
Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
PO Box 29626
Washington, DC 20017