It’s a strange time for police officers of color. One the one hand, black and Latino communities around the country have been vocal and organized in their opposition to the overuse of force by police and discriminatory practices and policies—to the point that some rhetoric has made police out to be the enemy. On the other hand, black and Latino officers are themselves part of the communities that are raising their voices in frustration and anger.
“The media has turned this into a black and white conversation which is not the parameters by which we speak,” says Anthony Miranda, the head of the National Latino Officers Association and a former NYPD sergeant, “Latinos are a big part of this conversation.”
Miranda says that Latinos communities suffer a particular kind of abuse because their citizenship and legal status are often brought into question by police in ways that other communities don’t experience.
He also says that police forces often try to indoctrinate all officers, including officers of color, by convincing them that they are “blue” first, and some other cultural identifying feature second. “The struggle with an organization like ours is trying to convince younger officers not to buy into that mentality,” Miranda says.
When it comes to that struggle between identifying with the police force and with a sense of community, Tony Chapa, executive director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association and a former assistant director of the Secret Service, says that he and his organization stand with the community. “There are more communities that have smaller representations of Latinos in the department than we have black communities with small representation of blacks.”
Chapa says that police play a significant role in society, not just because of the nature of their jobs, but because of their visibility. “In the Hispanic community, when young kids look at who represents the government to them, it’s not the President, it’s not the Vice President, it’s not the Senator or the Governor or the Mayor, it’s the police officer on the street.”
Anthony Miranda is the Executive Chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and a retired member of the NYPD where he served for 20 years.
Tony Chapa is the Executive Director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association in 2011. His career with the Secret Service began in 1986 and progressed with investigative assignments, as a member of the Vice Presidential Protective Division and administrative posts including Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Research and Assistant Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility.