Hispanic Citizens Police Academy graduates 20 in Hamilton

Now in its 22nd year, Hamilton’s Hispanic Citizens Police Academy is still enjoying success as 20 people graduated on Tuesday in a ceremony held at the Michael Colligan Lodge in Veterans Park. CONTRIBUTED
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Now in its 22nd year, Hamilton’s Hispanic Citizens Police Academy is still enjoying success as 20 people graduated on Tuesday in a ceremony held at the Michael Colligan Lodge in Veterans Park. CONTRIBUTED

Now in its 22nd year, Hamilton’s Hispanic Citizens Police Academy is still enjoying success as 20 people graduated Tuesday in a ceremony held at the Michael Colligan Lodge in Veterans Park.

“We have been doing the academy every fall for the last couple of years,” Sgt. Brian Robinson said. “It has helped build trust between the Hispanic community and police.”

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According to Robinson, the idea to start the academy was fueled by a case involving a girl that was raped on Ludlow Street by a Hispanic man that caused tension in the city. Many Hispanic people in the city felt a sense of unrest and distrust of the police and others after the incident, he said.

“We wanted to build better trust and relations with the Hispanic community. Their culture has a distrust of police and we wanted to help foster better relations with them here in Hamilton,” Robinson said.

During four weeks in the academy, students learn how to report a crime and what to do if they are approached by police. They are also trained in the basics of how the justice system works. They also took a trip to the gun range for a simulated shooting exercise and had a chance to see how SWAT teams operate.

“Quite frankly, a lot of people don’t know how these things work,” Robinson said. “We do get a chance to dispel a lot of myths that they have in the Hispanic community about police.”

One of those myths include the new public affairs vehicle that is driven around the city by officer Kristy Collins.

“We heard that some in their community think that vehicle is being driven in their community in order to arrest somebody and take them away and they will never see them again,” Robinson said.

In fact, he said, the vehicle is intended to help police reach out to those in the community by drawing their attention and sparking conversation with officers.

Members of the academy have also helped police in solving crimes.

“People who have participated in the academy have stepped up to provide critical information that has helped solve cases,” Robinson said.

Officers Eric Taylor and Greg Baker helped translate for the four weeks of the academy and most of this year’s class came from St. Julie Billiart Parish.