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McMahill welcomes Hispanic Citizens Police Academy’s first class of 2023

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill welcomed the newest class of the Hispanic Citizens Police Academy last week by underscoring the importance of the program.

“To me, this is one of the greatest things that Metro does to make relationships within the Hispanic community,” McMahill said during a welcome event Wednesday at the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters.

The academy started in 2007 and has graduated more than 1,000 students, according to Sam Diaz, a police officer and academy instructor. Through the academy, students learn about various crime topics, the ins and outs of the police department and how to defend their families.

Over the 16 years of the academy’s existence, Metro has developed a better understanding of the Hispanic community, which includes many different cultures and values, McMahill said. Without the program, he said, Las Vegas police would have a harder time forming a connection with the community, which accounts for one-third of the Las Vegas population and is the city’s second-largest ethnicity.

“The opportunity for you to come here for us is an opportunity for us to develop relationships with you,” McMahill said. “And when we have relationships and trust, we can build our communities together.”

For roughly 40 Las Vegas residents in attendance, Wednesday was their first lecture.

Erica Rodriguez, a Las Vegas resident who moved here 15 years ago, said she is taking part in the academy with her four coworkers to further their knowledge of Metro.

“We’re going to get a deeper understanding of how things work in Metro and what they’re doing to protect us,” Rodriguez said. “They need the community to help them to better our safety and everything.”

She and her coworkers want to be more informed so they can help their community by answering questions. Rodriguez said she’ll also be able to teach her kids on how to safely maneuver around the city.

The 12-week academy is in Spanish and English. During that time they will watch live demonstrations, tour the Clark County Detention Center and command centers and talk to officers.

“After they come from the Hispanic Citizen Police Academy … we have a lot more people out there being alert, being aware and protecting not just themselves, but their homes, their kids’ school, their church and business,” Diaz said Wednesday. “They take this information back to the community where they’re being vigilant.”

Miriam Gutierrez, who completed the academy in 2018, advocates for the academy as part of the alumni association.

“At the start it was really interesting to me because the truth was that there was no real connection with us,” Gutierrez said in Spanish about the relationship Metro had with the Hispanic community. “At times it’s our fear that puts up roadblocks to go to the police for help or are you just going to get into more problems.”

In her experience, she said, the academy gives Hispanic communities the information to be able to comfortably contact the police without fear in a time of need, regardless of immigrant status.

“I feel included within my community after taking this academy,” Gutierrez said.

She’s excited to see the high enrollment into the academy at the start of the year and hopes to see the program continue to grow.

McMahill expressed his aspirations for the academy’s newest class.

“I want you to help me drive this police department to be better than it already is,” McMahill said. “And to develop that fostered relationship with all of the Hispanic communities.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0350. Follow @jimi_writes on Twitter.

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