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Dallas Police officials look to Puerto Rico for bilingual recruits

Officers stand, looking ahead.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
The Dallas Police Department is hoping to find recruits who will join its ranks of bilingual officers.

Dallas police officials are looking for more recruits — even if it takes a trip to Puerto Rico.

Officers will be there from July 12 to 16 to interview bilingual candidates.

This comes at a time when the Dallas Police Department is struggling to hire and retain police officers. And more than a quarter of Dallas police officers were eligible for retirement in June, according to the DPD.

“Dallas has a lot of opportunities, and they gave me a lot of incentives, education and language. And you can learn a lot in this department,” said Bianca Escribano, a police officer who is from Puerto Rico, in a Tik Tok video.

DPD said they are “offering paid training, monthly incentives such as bilingual pay, education incentives and longevity pay.”

This trip is part of the several recruitment efforts DPD has underway to increase the applicant pool, which police officials told Dallas City Council last month has been down.

“Dallas police right now, we're struggling to get Spanish speakers so we figured this would be a good opportunity,” said Officer J. Casas.

Casas said finding candidates who speak Spanish is crucial. Latinos in Dallas make up 42% of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Census.

Puerto Rican Officer Juan Fernandez said he sought a job with DPD because of the department’s recruitment visits. He’s been an officer in Dallas for 15 years.

“When an agency goes to Puerto Rico and they offer better benefits, better pay the people are going to take advantage of it and of course they are going to apply. Everyone wants a better future for their family,” Fernandez said.

This would be the fourth time DPD has visited Puerto Rico and about 20 candidates have been hired.

Fernandez said having bilingual officers helps build a connection with Latino community, who've historically been mistrustful of law enforcement.

Candidates who get past preliminary tests and the first round of interviews in Puerto Rico will be interviewed again in Dallas.

Certified bilingual officers in Dallas get an extra 150 dollars in their monthly paycheck.

Got a tip? Email Alejandra Martinez at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.