Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Opinion: Chief Serpas and Metro police committed to reaching out to Hispanic community

As a member of the Hispanic immigrant community in Nashville, I would like to address the letter from the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NAHCC) to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) that was made public on March 23, 2006.

The opinions about MNPD expressed by the NAHCC business owners in this letter do not necessarily generalize to the entire Hispanic community in Nashville. Personally, I strongly disagree with the tone and content of this letter because it undermines the sincere effort of MNPD to reach out to the Hispanic immigrant community in Nashville.

The senseless murder of business owner, Aureliano Ceja, is truly a tragedy, as is any murder of an innocent victim, and our community has expressed sincere condolences and sympathy for the Ceja family.

Nevertheless, it is not fair to blame the existence of crime or a perceived increase in crime on MNPD, nor is it appropriate to make reckless accusations of racism, discrimination, unsatisfactory handling of crime reports, or other problems in MNPD in relation to the Hispanic community, without any substantiating evidence.

According to the MNPD website, any alleged abuses committed by MNPD officers should be reported to the MNPD Office of Professional Responsibility so that they can be investigated. In addition to this office, several community organizations—including NAHCC—are listed on the website as alternative places to file such complaints.

However, during the meeting convened by NAHCC on March 23, when a MNPD officer asked the NAHCC Chairman to provide him with specific cases to substantiate his allegations, he was unable to respond with any.

If these problems do exist, then I believe that there are alternative and constructive ways to document and address them in a collaborative manner without causing confusion in the community.

One concrete example of the commitment of MNPD to the safety of the Hispanic community is the implementation of the “El Protector” program. This program has the intention of helping our community to understand the importance of collaborating with MNPD for the safety of our families and community members.

The implementation of “El Protector” program has included the involvement of members of the Hispanic community. An advisory committee was formed, which includes business owners (such as the chairman of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) and other organizational representatives in the Hispanic community.

It is my understanding that the role of the advisory committee is to coordinate the implementation of strategies to encourage local Hispanic residents to trust the police; and most importantly to explain to our community how the law enforcement system works in Nashville.

I am sure that MNPD would be more than willing to engage in continuing dialogue with members of the Hispanic community regarding any possible concerns. The Hispanic community is quite diverse, so the MNPD would benefit from hearing from a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

However, as members of the Hispanic community, we also have the responsibility to report specific problems to MNPD and to propose concrete solutions.

Finally, I want to convey my appreciation for Chief Serpas’ leadership and that I support his efforts to maintain a positive relationship with the Hispanic community.

Juan Canedo
Antioch, TN

The comments posted here are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Hispanic Nashville Notebook. Material that should not be attributed to the Hispanic Nashville Notebook is often indicated on this site in green text or in quotes.

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