The first class of 2,022 graduates of the Hispanic Academy at the Metropolitan Police Department received their diplomas this week.
Wednesday’s ceremony at headquarters was ended by a mariachi band from the College of Southern Nevada, who performed on stage as participants enjoyed graduate food. The academy’s founder, retired Metro Lieutenant George Castro, said he never imagined the program would grow where it was since its inaugural class in 2007.
“It’s like being a father.” When I started it, you grow it, “said Castro. “Then you come to a point where you kind of step aside, and then I’m to the point where I step back now and let those I helped raise to move it forward.”
The academy is held twice a year and, according to Castro, has about 1,000 graduates after 15 years. He said the aim of setting up the academy was to educate the Spanish-speaking community about the police department and to address mistrust between the community and law enforcement agencies.
“Today, I see that our future is better prepared for any challenges they have within the community than they were when my parents were here,” Castro said.
Graduate Maria Trevino shared her experience with the crowd in Spanish and English. She emigrated to the United States from Mexico six years ago and worked for Las Vegas for almost a year in the office of councilor Brian Knudsen.
She said she liked meeting the department’s experts who were guests during the academy.
“I think it was amazing,” Trevino said. “It showed me another side of the police, as they are friendly, they are doing good.”
The class of 28 students met weekly from January for 12 weeks. The academy, taught in Spanish, covered more than 20 subjects such as crime, crime prevention and an overview of categories such as cybercrime, human trafficking and domestic violence, according to Officer Sam Diaz of Metro for Community Engagement.
“They don’t know what happened 10 or 20 years ago, they know exactly what’s happening in our streets right now,” said Diaz, who has been part of the academy for more than 10 years.
The students inspected the substation and watched demonstrations of K-9 and transport units during the academy. Diaz said this year’s class added a session on the use of force department in Spanish.
“We want our Spanish-speaking community to know what the laws are and what our policy is on the use of force,” he said.
A graduate, Edgar Ramos, said that when he went to the academy, he thought he knew how to keep the property safe, but during the course he found that he “did everything wrong (and didn’t even know it).”
“I felt like I went back to school and graduated again,” Ramos said. “It is a good feeling.”
The second academy in 2022 is scheduled to begin on August 17 at 5:00 pm at Northeast Area Command Substation, 3750 Cecile Ave. Applications are available at lvmpd.com or can be completed in person on August 17.
Contact David Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.