Georgetown Police seeks to bridge gap between department, Latino community

GEORGETOWN, Del. – Georgetown Police are working hand in hand with the La Esperanza to help bridge a gap between the department and the Latino community.

“It’s extremely important for us to have trust-based relationships,” said the Georgetown Police Department Chief R.L. Hughes.

“Community policing should be at the forefront because without the support, respect from our community, law enforcement we cannot do this on our own,” said Hughes.

That is why police have integrated members at La Esperanza, an immigration advocacy center in Georgetown, into their workforce. The police department depends on them for victims services and to let the community know it is alright to ask for help even if the person is undocumented.

“When we have clients come into La Esperanza we have them for various reasons primarily maybe because crimes are happening and we want to make sure that they feel comfortable calling 911,” said Maribel Velasquez, a bilingual victims advocate at La Esperanza.

According to Velasquez, some Latinos fear police officers because they feel their livelihoods are threatened when they are near law enforcement. But, Hughes said they are looking to break that stigma.

“Growing up, my parents, it’s always the status,” said Velasquez.

“It’s always the status, and it’s always the misconception of law enforcement and immigration, and it was always, if they’re going to stop you they’re going to check who you are,” said Velasquez.

Another way the department is trying to better that relationship is by making it easier for bilingual applicants to join the force.

“One of the key things that we’ve really changed up first is we now interview all applicants, so when they put an application in rather than worrying about what’s in their brain on a test, we want to know what’s in their heart, do they truly want to be a police officer,” said Hughes.

The chief also said he hopes to add more bilingual officers to the police department in the future.

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