A Puerto Rican's Perspective of the Chicago Police Department

By:
Colin Boyle 
Izzabelle Murillo 
Kara Stevick

The amount of Hispanics working for the Chicago Police Department has increased by more than six percent over the past five years, largely due to efforts to recruit more diverse applicants in the aftermath of the 2014 Jason Van Dyke shooting.

 

But what about Puerto Ricans?

 

With over 96,000 Puerto Ricans residing in the city, Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic group in Chicago, according to the most recent Census data.

 

Yet demographic data released by the Chicago Police Department does not specify how many Puerto Ricans were hired.

 

For members of the Puerto Rican community, getting lumped together with other Hispanics isn’t new.

 

Though many Americans don’t see a big difference between Hispanic groups and Puerto Ricans, 51 percent of Spanish-speakers prefer to identify by their origin country, according to this Pew Research Center study.

 

Chicago's Puerto Rican Police Association hopes to change this prevailing misconception.

 

The only association of its kind in the entire country, the Puerto Rican Police Association was established by eight community members in 1978 after a man named Tony Olivieri was rejected from the force because of his race. Olivieri would go on to be the Puerto Rican Police Association’s first president.

 

The association has been working to increase Puerto Rican representation on the force and to diminish tense relations between Chicago police and the community for the past forty years.

 

Once the smallest organization of its kind in the city, the Puerto Rican Police Association is now the largest in Chicago, with over 100 active members, according to the association’s President, Waldemar Cruz.

 

In order to understand what it’s like to be a Puerto Rican police officer for the Chicago Police Department, we asked three members of the Puerto Rican Police Association to recount their experiences.

 

 

Take a look and listen below. 

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© Kara Stevick