For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Evanston Police Department will offer its six-week community police academy class in Spanish.

“We decided, instead of the next one being our traditional class, let’s do something that is more inclusive, and really kind of focuses on communities that typically do not get attention from the police department in this way,” said Officer Enjoli Daley, who has taught the English version of the class for several years. 

The inaugural Academia de Policia Comunitaria class will share information that English-speaking residents have had access to since 1995. Attendees will learn the department’s process for conducting investigations, assessing crime scenes and analyzing criminal activity.

Officers Enjoli Daley and Cesar Galindo Credit: Gina Castro

But most importantly, Spanish-speaking residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with officers in a neutral setting.

“Most people don’t deal with the police unless something goes wrong or someone’s in trouble,” said Blanca Lule, who is a member of the city’s Citizen Police Review Commission. “So, right now, I don’t think that there’s a ton of dialogue, but I think this is a good opportunity for people not just to see the kind of work the police do, but to engage in a dialogue with the police so that they can see the police isn’t always bad.”

Officer Cesar Galindo proposed the program to Police Chief Schenita Stewart around November last year. While working in the community police unit, Galindo learned from residents the need for a Spanish community police academy class.

“I started hearing a lot of a lot of questions like, ‘Well, I see you guys have a citizen police academy, do you guys ever think about offering it in Spanish?’ Galindo said. “So it came as a request from the community.”

The academy is available for anyone 18 years or older who lives or works in Evanston. No ID is required. The deadline to fill out an application for the next class is Feb. 15.

The class will meet on Thursday evenings from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Feb. 23 through April 6.

Mercedes Fernández, co-founder and president of Latinos en Evanston North Shore (LENS), said she’s had many positive interactions with Galindo and other officers in EPD’s Latinx Hispanic Liaison division. He and Officer Jackie Herrera attended several LENS community events and events hosted by Evanston Township High School Latino Liaison, which Fernández also leads.

“He’s very kind, polite, helpful, understanding, he offers his phone number so members of the community can call him to ask any questions they feel more comfortable asking Officer Galindo,” Fernández said.

Having officers who speak Spanish is crucial in Evanston, Fernández said.

“Latino police officers can easily get into this environment without any barriers, because culturally they understand Latinos, especially in Evanston,” Fernández said.

But aside from EPD’s Latinx Hispanic Liaison officers, Lule says there isn’t much of a relationship between the city’s Latinx community and EPD.

“But I think this is a good next step for the police department to have a good relationship with the Spanish-speaking community,” Lule said.

When the RoundTable asked EPD what impact this Spanish class will have between Latinos and police, Daley said, “I will say when it comes to trust, it’s a two-way street. We have to give people something to trust, and people have to be willing. And we have to be able to trust the community. So it’s a two-way street. And that’s what programs like this allow us to work on. It’s not an overnight remedy.”

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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