Waldemar Cruz

President, Puerto Rican Police Association

Growing up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, Waldemar Cruz rarely saw police officers that looked like him.

"We were kind of closed off from everybody else, we were treated a little different," Cruz said.

So he decided to become one.

The first Puerto Rican in his entire department in Cicero, Cruz wasn´t initially received well by his fellow brothers in blue. As he explains above, he was teased and isolated, but that didn’t deter him from being himself.

"With some organizations, you want to assimilate, to assimilate to their way," Cruz said. "I did that, but at the same time, I’m proud I kept my culture."

After serving on the force in Cicero for the past 23 years, Cruz continues to celebrate his culture through his role as the president of the Puerto Rican Police Association.

Though the Puerto Rican Police Association initially only worked to help young Puerto Ricans successfully get on the force, Cruz shifted the mission of the association when he took over in 2009 to be more community-based.

This year, the Puerto Rican Police Association has put on a variety of events, ranging from community basketball games to car seat safety trainings, to holiday fundraisers and galas.

"My job as a Puerto Rican is to help Puerto Rican Hispanics the most because we lacked for so many years the opportunities."