Still, Perez said misinformation is causing “a lot of division and issues of fear and insecurity.”
“The chief of police has a perception that we need to have a safe community, a safe environment — and they are not attacking the Latino community,” he said. “But unfortunately, there are some other things that could be out of his hands that could be an abuse of authority. It could be that this law (allows) some officers to commit racial profiling or to have certain types of activities that are not constitutional ... it’s a very complex, sensitive issue that we need to address in our community from different perspectives.”
Parker said rights are an area “we pay close attention to.”
“We feel like we’ve been very careful about guarding against institutional things creeping up where there appears to be some sort of constitutional problem in the way that citizens are being treated by the officers,” he said.
Parker was asked if there have been interactions with the Hispanic community at a leadership level.
“We’ve made some attempts in the past to do that, and I would describe our results as moderately successful,” he said. “It’s difficult to identify sometimes who are the — quote, unquote — leaders of a particular group. We would prefer to deal with citizens on a one-on-one basis and hear their concerns, because we’re more likely to hear the unvarnished information straight from them, about what their particular concern is. I think it would be difficult for one advocacy group or another to say that they represent all people of that ethnicity — when that’s almost one-half of the city’s population.”
But Parker said there has been no “hue and cry” from any ethnic groups to the police department in advance of the law’s implementation.
“In the last couple of weeks ... (we’ve) not heard complaints from advocacy groups or others who have taken a position that they represent Hispanic groups,” he reported. “So I’m concerned that, in conjunction with House Bill 87, that all of a sudden there’s now this new concern. So I would ask where was this concern prior to that? We’ve been here all the time. And our officers, I feel like, know the community fairly well.”
Nietzche was asked if the law is putting a strain on relations between the department and the Hispanic community.
“So far I don’t see it, probably because it hasn’t been implemented,” he said. “There’s been a love-hate relationship from the Latino community, but it has nothing to do with immigration. There’s a group that will not call the police no matter what, and other citizens who will. It’s either black or white with no gray areas. The Hispanic community doesn’t want to give (white officers) a chance, though. We have some Anglo officers who can speak Spanish well, but when I get on the scene (Latinos) ‘open up’ when I get there.”
Frazier said some of the negative perceptions of the police there may originate from other areas of the country.
“It may come from places where there’s a distrust of the police,” he said. “One of the things we’ve tried to do is get the message out — you can call the police and make reports. We don’t want people to become victims without a voice.”