Local police department looks to recruit Spanish-speaking officers as Latino population grows

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach Police Department is looking to recruit Spanish-speaking police officers in its ongoing initiative to reach out to the city's Latino and Hispanic population.

Officer David Nieves told News 3 back in October that the Latino and Hispanic population is growing in the city. He also noted how the language barrier could hinder someone's ability to report a crime or emergency.

"That’s the second-most spoken language right now in Virginia Beach," Nieves told News 3 on Monday.

He said Latino officers are just a "handful" of the force's roughly 800 officers.

Officer Cynthia Santiago, who is the department's recruitment coordinator, is one of them. She has been an officer with the VBPD for 10 years and said her ability to speak Spanish proved useful in certain situations.

“A good example of either a DUI or domestics I had to respond to and there were people who did not speak English and were Spanish-speaking," Santiago said.

It is not just Latinos or Hispanics the department is looking for - it's also people who have learned and can understand Spanish. Nieves said he thinks the lack of Latinos and Hispanics in the police force are because of cultural differences.

“There’s not a lot of Spanish-speaking police officers or Latinos on the police department because it wasn’t something that is pushed in our culture," he said. "It’s not something that’s pushed in our homes, and I think now it’s time to change.”

The VBPD started the Hispanic Citizen's Police Academy in October to reach out and engage the with the Latino community. Its purpose is to help teach how the department can assist them and vice versa.

“We want our police department to represent the community," Santiago said. "The Spanish-speaking community is growing ever so much in the City of Virginia Beach.”

Those who are interested in the recruitment process can attend Monday night's Hispanic Citizen's Police Academy for information. Nieves and Santiago will be providing an informational session in Spanish.

The Academy meets every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Seatack Recreation Center located at 141 S. Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach.

Recruitment information can also be found on the VBPD's Employment Page.

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