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Springdale Police Look to Add Latino Officers

Only 5 of the department's 133 sworn officers are Latino.
SPRINGDALE, AR - The Springdale Police Department hopes to add Latino officers to the force to match the city's growing diversity.

"Springdale is a beautiful city, we're growing," says Officer Fredy Villeda of the Springdale Police Department.

The Latino population is growing along with it. According to the 2010 census, Hispanics now make up more than one third of the city's 70,000 people.

"We do have a diverse group," says Officer Jared Pena. "I think it's a great thing, because I've always been one for diversity. I've always been one to experience different cultures."

The diversity hasn't translated to Springdale police. Only 5 of the departments 133 sworn officers are Latino.

Pena joined the force 15 years ago, and says being bilingual has helped his career.

"My family comes from Mexico," he says. "I've been relied on a lot, and earlier in my career there was only three of us."

More than a dozen members of the department now speak Spanish, but Pena says it helps even more to understand other cultures when responding to a call.

"In some cultures a man is not allowed to talk to a woman, to somebody else's wife," he says. "It's good to know those little intricacies... that could raise the level of anxiety, the excitement on scene."

He believes anxiety may be the reason more Latinos haven't applied.

"People are afraid to apply because they're afraid they don't know enough," he says.

But Villeda says that fear is unfounded.

"We pretty much will train them from zero all the way," he says. "Come and apply. We've got a good program.

We've got good training, I think very, very strong training that we have here and I think they'd be able to enjoy that."

Police plan to run radio ads and visit local churches to get the word out to the Latino community, but anyone is welcome to apply.

The department has 5 openings, and applications are due by April 19th.

Click here to download an application.

Reported by: Kyle Leyenberger, KNWA-TV, Fayetteville

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