The history of Hispanics in the U.S. public safety industry reflects resilience and dedication, shaping the nation’s safety landscape. Since the 19th century, Hispanics have been actively engaged in law enforcement, firefighting, emergency services, disaster response and many other public safety roles. Despite facing discrimination, they persevered, leading to a steady increase in their numbers over the years. Today, Hispanic public safety leaders play vital roles, serving as role models and making significant contributions. As of 2021, Hispanics have been joining police and federal law enforcement agencies at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, with their representation steadily growing. Among law enforcement officers, Whites make up 59.6%, Blacks or African Americans 13.3% while Hispanics or Latinos has been steadily growing to 18.2% as of 2021. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of inspirational Hispanic leaders, reflecting on their recent triumphs and contributions to their communities.
1. Police Commissioner Edward Caban
Edward Caban, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican heritage, made history by becoming the first Latino commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD). With over 30 years of experience in the NYPD, Caban has held various roles, following in the footsteps of his father, a retired NYPD transit police officer. Mayor Eric Adams, himself a former officer, administered the oath at the Bronx stationhouse where Caban began his career. Caban acknowledged the honor of leading the 33,000-member department, emphasizing its storied history of valor and sacrifice by ordinary New Yorkers. Caban succeeds Keechant Sewell, the first Black woman to lead the NYPD. During his time in office the department has become more diverse, with 31% of uniformed officers being Hispanic or Latino, reflecting the city’s demographics.
2. Chief Rex Troche
Rex Troche, the first Hispanic police chief of Sarasota, aspires to be a transformative leader beyond his ethnicity. While acknowledging the significance of his historic role, he prioritizes serving the entire community, especially minority neighborhoods like Newtown. Troche emphasizes community policing and collaboration amid complex criminal justice challenges and limited resources. He credits his education at the University of South Florida (USF) for his problem-solving skills and leadership abilities. Troche’s family, including his wife and three daughters, plays a crucial role in his success, with a focus on education and hard work as part of their family legacy. His dedication to lasting change drives his work as Sarasota’s police chief.
3. Sheriff Marco López
Marco López has made history as Osceola County’s first Puerto Rican Sheriff. Running as the Democratic candidate, López secured victory after an unsuccessful attempt in 2016, defeating independent candidate Luis “Tony” Fernández, also of Puerto Rican heritage. López’s win is celebrated for its potential to benefit the diverse population of the county. He aims to promote cultural and educational programs while ensuring adequate representation for all communities, particularly the Latin community, which constitutes a significant portion of the population. López’s journey to victory involved overcoming challenges, including being fired by his former boss, Sheriff Russ Gibson, but his dedication and community support propelled him to success.
4. Chief Yoli Alvarez
Yoli Alvarez was Miami’s first Hispanic female Chief Fire Officer retiring after a 33-year career. Raised in Miami, she initially joined the Army and later transitioned to the fire academy. Despite the physical challenges and heartbreak of her early days as a firefighter, she persevered and rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming a district chief overseeing multiple teams and stations. Alvarez’s dedication and determination have left a significant impact, inspiring others to aim high in their careers. As she enters retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family while leaving behind the legacy of her groundbreaking career.
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