The entirety of the Chattanooga Police Department received training from La Paz Chattanooga staff on the growing Latino population in the area.
Starting in February and lasting through the first week of May, the aim of the partnership was to equip the police force with a better understanding of the region’s fastest-growing demographic, raising awareness of cultural nuances so the agency can engage Chattanooga Latinos.
The region’s Latino population has experienced a rapid increase in numbers over the past few decades.
The 1990 U.S. Census showed that Latinos comprised less than a single percentage point of the total Hamilton County population, while Census estimates for the year 2020 tell that number will be close to twelve percent. And, in 2012 alone, the Hamilton County Department of Education enrolled nearly 300 new Latino students in area schools.
“Our vision at La Paz is to develop a trusted network around Chattanooga’s Latino community,” said Stacy Johnson, executive director at La Paz Chattanooga. “We work every day to educate area Latinos on how to become more civically engaged in the city, but we also need the rest of Chattanooga to take steps towards including them if we’re going to create a balanced community. We have been thrilled to work with the Chattanooga Police Department in these trainings, as they are an integral part in realizing our vision. It is a great opportunity to be a valuable resource to those who dedicate their lives to making our city safe.”
La Paz staff visited the police training center once per week to work with current field and office personnel, and police cadets visited the La Paz Chattanooga office on Bailey Avenue for an annual educational session. By the conclusion of the police department’s annual training exercises last week, all police staff and cadets received cultural training from La Paz staff.
“We have always viewed La Paz as an important community resource and are happy to launch a formal training partnership for the first time with them,” said Officer Jon Totherow, training officer. “Chattanooga Police have firsthand experience of many of the effects of the Latino population growth. We want to make sure our team on the streets and in the office are able to utilize best practices when working with these Chattanoogans, and La Paz is helping us do that.”