I also discussed in my speech that change for our community can only be achieved if we decide to step away from the dogmas of the past and work together to build a future composed of our individual hopes that surpass political lines. Our hopes and goals might differ, but our pursuit of happiness provides a common foundation for who we are as human beings.
My journey to wearing the badge began before I was even born. My father, who I did not meet until I was 18 years old, and his family came to the United States from Nicaragua after their government targeted my grandfather for political purposes. My mother gave birth to me when she was just 17 years old. I grew up feeling disconnected from my friends and often my family because I could not express that I was gay. Once I came out and was accepted, it was a liberating experience, and I felt like my voice was finally heard. I’m sure many of the LGBTQ+ Community know this feeling. My primary motivation to become a police officer was sparked by a calling to be a light for kids growing up in similar situations as I did and anyone who feels like they do not have a voice. My experience growing up and my family history embedded a deep appreciation for liberty, equality, justice, and the Constitution police are abided by.
The police profession is so much more than just arresting bad guys. Yes, it is a gratifying experience to arrest the criminals harming the community; however, police officers are constantly on the front line with community members during every moment of need, tragedy, and crisis. When police are called, it usually results from someone dealing with a problem they cannot handle. At the same time, countless police officers are going above and beyond the call of duty by joining community organizations, volunteering, and attending vital training that equips them with the necessary knowledge to address certain aspects of law enforcement. The Henderson Police Officers I have served beside and HPD Chief Hollie Chadwick are dedicated individuals who take pride in service, fairness, and community. The Henderson Police Department effectively addresses community issues because HPD focuses on positive community engagement and training officers to be problem solvers, not just law enforcers.
Diversity is not just about race, identity, religion, and sexual orientation. Diversity is also about the inclusion of varying ideas and the individual experiences unique to a single human being. Diversity will play a significant role in the future of policing. A wider array of officers who have experienced different sides of life will be able to utilize their experiences in finding more efficient solutions for problems caused by economic stressors, poverty, family issues, and mental health.
As a gay Latino officer, I have built a bridge of trust and relation with many individuals who are also LGBTQ+ and residents who might have had negative perspectives on police. LGBTQ+ residents I have contacted during calls for service were more willing to speak with me because they could relate with me and, often, their views on police change because they were inclined to listen to the perspective of an officer with an uncommon sexual orientation for officers.
During the height of the George Floyd riots, a Black woman who identified as a Black Lives Matter movement member approached me one day when I was working. She asked me why I became a police officer. As I discussed my story and identified as LGBTQ+, I changed her views on police. My main point was that we as a people will be the change we seek in our institutions. There are not many LGBTQ+ officers. Most police officers are straight, white males, which does not detract from the selfless service police provide. Where inclusion matters is involving more people from different backgrounds to ensure our future is inclusive of everyone’s needs.
My role in my department is serving the community in any way I can and defying all my limitations. I was petrified my sexuality would prohibit me from getting hired and fitting in with my coworkers. Today, I stand proud as an officer. The officers and supervisors I work with daily treat me like family. Recently, I became a member of the City of Henderson’s Cultural Champions group and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coalition. Both groups are initiatives by the City of Henderson to spread awareness on equality issues and ensure the City of Henderson is inclusive to all City of Henderson employees. On top of training and volunteer work, I have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and will soon graduate with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Business. I strive to be the best officer possible. I want every community member to know that there is pride in service because we are the change.