The first class of 2022 graduates from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Hispanic Citizens Academy received their diplomas this week.
The ceremony Wednesday at Metro headquarters concluded with the College of Southern Nevada’s mariachi band performing onstage as attendees enjoyed a post-graduation meal. The academy’s founder, retired Metro Lt. George Castro, said he never imagined the program would grow to where it is from its inaugural class in 2007.
“It’s like being a dad. When I started it, you’re nurturing it,” Castro said. “Then you come to the point where you sort of, like, step next to it, and then I’m to the point now where I step back and I let those that I helped nurture move it forward.”
The academy is held twice a year, and after 15 years, it has had about 1,000 graduates, according to Castro. He said the goal of creating the academy was to educate the Spanish-speaking community about the Police Department and address the distrust between the community and law enforcement.
“What I’m seeing today is that our future is being better prepared for any challenges that they have within the community than they were when my parents were here,” Castro said.
Graduate Maria Trevino shared her experience with the crowd in Spanish and English. She immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico six years ago and has worked for the city of Las Vegas in Councilman Brian Knudsen’s office for nearly a year.
She said she enjoyed meeting the department experts who were guest speakers during the academy.
“I think that was awesome,” Trevino said. “It showed me a different side of the police, like they’re friendly, that they do good.”
The class of 28 students met weekly starting in January for 12 weeks. The academy, taught in Spanish, covered more than 20 subjects such as crime, crime prevention and an overview of categories such as cybercrimes, human trafficking and domestic violence, according to officer Sam Diaz with Metro’s office of community engagement.
“They get to know not what’s been happening 10 or 20 years ago, they get to know exactly what’s happening right now in our streets,” said Diaz, who has been part of the academy for more than 10 years.
Students toured a substation and watched demonstrations from K-9 and traffic units during the academy. Diaz said this year’s class added a session on the department’s use-of-force policy in Spanish.
“We want our Spanish-speaking community to know what is the law and what is our policy when it comes to use of force,” he said.
Graduate Edgar Ramos said going into the academy he thought he knew how to keep a property secure, but through the course found out he “was doing everything wrong (and) didn’t even know.”
“I felt like I went back to school, and I graduated again,” Ramos said. “It’s a good feeling.”
The second academy of 2022 is set to start at 5 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Northeast Area Command substation, 3750 Cecile Ave. Applications are available at lvmpd.com, or they can be filled out in person on Aug. 17.