A WRITTEN STATEMENT
Submitted to the
Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice
On behalf of the
Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
The Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) is a non-profit membership organization established in 1973, and is the oldest and largest association in the U.S. of Hispanic American command officers from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies at the municipal, county, state, university and federal levels.
HAPCOA’s mission is to “empower the future of law enforcement” by assisting law enforcement, criminal justice and community organizations nationwide in their efforts to recruit, train and promote qualified Hispanic American men and women committed to a career in the criminal justice arena and to communities in which they serve and protect.
As such, when Attorney General William Barr formed the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, on January 21, 2020, HAPCOA was pleased to see that of the several issues noted as worthy of review and concern included the question: “How can we improve officer recruitment, training, and retention?”
The mission of HAPCOA is clearly in support of this concern, but our focus goes even deeper into “ways to make American Law Enforcement the most trusted and effective guardians of our communities” as stated by Attorney General Barr.
HAPCOA reports that recruitment of law enforcement officers must include a directed effort at recruiting a diverse workforce. Quantitative reporting confirms that to hire a diverse workforce the number of individuals ‘recruited’ must exceed the number of non-minority candidates. Without active recruitment in targeted areas the number of qualified Hispanic candidates will not increase. But HAPCOA goes to the next level and focuses on the recruitment of experienced Hispanic law enforcement officers into advanced law enforcement training programs, such as forensics, investigations, and leadership, to help improve upon their qualifications to promote into senior leadership roles and attain executive level managerial positions.
HAPCOA reports that training programs from law enforcement academies to in-service training programs are key to keeping officers informed, prepared, technically advanced and safe. But HAPCOA sees training as an opportunity to focus on topics that are of concern to the diverse communities that we serve and protect. Developing law enforcement training programs that enhance an officer’s ability to understand community relations, issues concerning cultural bias and language barriers serve as an aide to help navigate the concerns of the community at large while taking into consideration the officers ability to meet the needs of the diverse community that they serve. Enhanced training may include language courses, cultural awareness courses, and roundtable discussions with community leaders and role-playing opportunities that will enhance officer safety, facilitate trust and increase community involvement and cooperation.
HAPCOA is extremely concerned about the retention of law enforcement officers as well. As law enforcement departments find that they must freeze hiring or furlough officers, the last hired (members of your diversified workforce) will be the first to go. While this is a financial concern of city managers, county officials, university presidents, and Governors, it is the diverse communities that will be adversely impacted.
HAPCOA hopes that the US Congress will address these emerging issues by supporting law enforcement at its local levels with funding and support to keep its law enforcement officers on the beat, communicating with its communities and providing necessary services during this pandemic.
HAPCOA believes that the future of law enforcement is one where our law enforcement officers (and the leadership of these agencies) are reflective of the communities that they serve. Officers who are well-trained and knowledgeable of their communities needs, issues and problems, are more apt to be successful as they are vested in the community that they serve. This must also include Hispanic officers who are willing to take leadership roles and effectively command law enforcement functions and responsibilities within their communities. Today our most diverse communities include our nation’s largest cities, and even our smallest rural communities. The latest US Census will report that we have become a more diverse nation and that this expansion is not just in a few States but also within a majority of our American States.
The events which transpired in Ferguson and cities throughout the United States in 2014 were indicators of a the deep-seated resentment among community members who believe their concerns were 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. (HAPCOA Statement regarding Ferguson, MO; posted: December 5, 2014)
HAPCOA has been dedicated to this cause for over 46 years by providing a yearly training symposium that focuses on recruitment, leadership training, mentorship, promotions and topical courses that address the Attorney General’s focus on how to make law enforcement ‘trusted and effective guardians’ of the communities that they protect and serve.
Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
PO Box 29626
Washington, DC 20017
Prepared and submitted on behalf of HAPCOA by:
Chief Teresa Ramon
Immediate Past President
Chief Don Tijerina
National Vice President