Treasurer, Puerto Rican Police Association
After being on the force for almost 30 years, Luis Arroyo has seen a lot of changes since what he described as “the older regime” in the Chicago Police Department. This regime was “older, white police officers who didn’t understand our culture” and were known for detaining and searching Chicagoans when they would use Spanish to communicate.
Similar to the aforementioned experience, Arroyo has faced discrimination and mistreatment as a Puerto Rican in the Chicago Police Department.
Arroyo, born of two Puerto Rican immigrants, grew up in Humboldt Park and Logan Square. His childhood was split between the Chicago and Puerto Rico.
Arroyo did not see many Hispanic police officers during his childhood. As a teenager in Chicago, he described his experience with police growing up as negative, citing being “pulled over basically for no reason, especially if you had two or more occupants,” as an example.
He recalled a moment when he was in the police academy there was an older, white officer who would go around asking cadets what their ethnicity was. When it was Arroyo’s turn to respond, he said he was Puerto Rican and the officer simply said, “Oh. How many cars have you stolen?”
From his own experience of growing up Hispanic in Chicago, Arroyo said that once he was in the force, he was able to understand why kids would react as they did when interacting with the police.
“I was in the Spanish neighborhoods so I understood a lot of the young kids,” Arroyo said with a chuckle. “Especially sometimes you’d tell them ‘Come here!’ and they’d ran on you, you kinda had an idea why they ran.”
Arroyo has worked as the treasurer of the Puerto Rican Police Association since 2009 and has a strong connection with the Puerto Rican community at his work through it, not only with Puerto Ricans in Chicago but with his coworkers as well.
“Working with other Puerto Rican police officers you kind of build a bond, like a brotherhood, because you know that they went through some discrimination on this police force,” Arroyo said. “We have the love for our people and the island.”
Although there is this community for Arroyo, he wishes the police department would promote more Puerto Rican officers to higher positions.
“The police department needs to promote more PR’s in higher positions and that’s what we try to focus on,” Arroyo said. “And I think that other than that, we’re going in the right direction.”
At the end of the day, Arroyo’s optimism shines through in conjunction with the unity found in the association.
“As far as other Puerto Rican police officers, it’s a good feeling because if you think you’re alone you know you’re not alone.”