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Gwinnett Police Department wants to hire more officers to reflect growing, diverse community

The Hispanic population in Gwinnett County has doubled since the early 2000s. Recruiting bilingual officers has been a challenge, especially during the pandemic.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The Gwinnett County Police Department is ramping up recruiting efforts. As the county grows in population and diversity, the need for multilingual officers in the county is more important now than ever before.

Hideshi Valle, who is the public information officer for the police department, is also one of the few Hispanic officers in the department. 

"Being Hispanic, coming to the U.S. at a very young age and seeing the sacrifices that my parents had to make and everything that this country provides, is my way to give back to our community," she said.

Valle said she speaks Spanish 50% of the time while on the job, depending on which areas of the county she is in. So she sees the need for Hispanic, but also Asian American officers in the department first-hand.

Credit: Provided.

"We currently have a lot of slots that are open," she said. "We don't have enough bilingual officers. We are seeking bilingual officers that want to make a difference in our community in all aspects."

Many police departments across the nation have had recruiting problems and the pandemic has made it even more of a challenge to travel and recruit face-to-face. 

"We've always kind of been low and just I think the pandemic and not being able to do our recruiting like we've done -- we used to go down to North Carolina and Florida --  but with COVID everything's been through Zoom, so it's slowed down," she said. "So we're slowly into starting to pick back up."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, 10.9% of the population in Gwinnett County was Hispanic. Fast forward to now and it has doubled, with 21.7% of the population being Hispanic.

That number is much higher compared to the Hispanic population in other counties like Cobb (13.3%) and Fulton (7.2%) combined.

"We are definitely looking for officers, not only Hispanic but from different ethnicities that want to help the community and be part of Gwinnett County," she said.

The department is the second largest police agency in Georgia with 930 sworn officers serving more than 800,000 residents, according to its website. The latest census shows the population in Gwinnett County has grown to more than 900,000 residents.

So, the need continues to grow. The addition of the department's new mental task force also requires more officers.

That's why the police department is hosting hiring events once a month at 854 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville. This weekend is the next one. 

"We urge all our citizens to follow us on Instagram, especially those that feel that they want to start a career in law enforcement and potentially in Gwinnett. If you are not able to make it to our recruiting event this Saturday or Sunday, you'll be able to go on there and see the different units that we have within Gwinnett County and possibly create that picture of you envisioning yourself as a police officer," she added.

The minimum age requirement for the department is 20 and a half years, but they're encouraging even those who are younger to apply, too. For example, 18-year-olds can start out as one of their 911 dispatchers, as there's a need for them, too.

"That's the first communication that a citizen has to go through to get help," Valle said. "Having a diverse language and individuals from different backgrounds to be able to help that citizen is very important."

To read more on the phases on becoming a police officer with the department, click here.

To apply, click here.