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North Las Vegas police chief focuses on community outreach

The City of North Las Vegas, recently on the verge of bankruptcy and a state takeover, is aiming for a fresh start and its new police chief is a man who wants to provide one.

For years, the city wasn’t even able to hire new officers, but Chief Alexander Perez believes North Las Vegas has turned a corner. He plans to increase the department’s diversity, augment the patrol force, start a community advisory council and continue to build bridges within the community.

Perez, 45, was sworn in by the North Las Vegas City Council on May 20 after serving with the department for more than 20 years. The Eldorado High School graduate worked his way up from patrol officer and held a variety of jobs along the way, including narcotics officer, detective bureau sergeant and operations captain.

While he’s worked for the department for his entire adult life, Perez said he didn’t always want to be a cop.

He had no idea what being a cop was all about when a high school counselor suggested that he apply to the police academy.

“I was going into it curious to see how it turned out,” he said. “It really didn’t click with me until in the first month of police academy.”

But his connection with the city has always run deep. His parents met in North Las Vegas, and his earliest memory is tied to a neighborhood just down the street from police department headquarters, 2332 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

He’s seen the department struggle and change since he joined it as a fresh-faced 21-year-old. Then, there wasn’t a lot of diversity on the force, the city’s first Latino police chief said.

“There weren’t a lot of Latinos in law enforcement in general,” he said, adding that the department is heading in the right direction. “We’ve (Latino officers) probably, rough guesstimate, quadrupled. But we’re still well below representing the community with police, percentage-wise.”

Historically, there weren’t a lot of diversity initiatives within the department, which went nearly six years without hiring. But Perez said in the last year there have been renewed efforts to increase diversity. Community-oriented policing programs had been tried before, but they weren’t sustained long enough to be effective.

“The city is actually open to growth in their relationship between the police department and the community at large. I think it’s time we take steps in that direction,” he said.

Perez is planning to start a “Chief’s Advisory Council” made up of business, faith and community leaders to cultivate those relationships. Because one person may have a new idea, or a twist on old one, that makes all the difference in the world, he said.

“I’m going to get knee-deep in that as soon as I can,” he said.

Perez is also doing some “minor” reorganization of the department to augment the city’s patrol division, which he credits for reducing crime in the city despite having a relatively small force.

“I can’t put a cop on every corner. I can’t put a cop on every other block,” he said, emphasizing the need for community participation. “The city’s still climbing out of a hole, but we’ve actually hired recently. That’s a positive uptick and it affects the morale of the department.”

It’s the personal investment of his staff that keeps the city safe and fuels him to come into work every morning, he said. Perez is confident that the department will continue to make strides if it continues to focus on community relations and patrol.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter.

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