As newest officers hit streets, Las Vegas PD's diversity increases

"I want to be out there and let them know that they can always come up to us," said Officer Fernando Flores


By Casey Harrison
Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS — Fernando Flores, one of Metro Police's newest officers, always knew he was destined for a career in law enforcement.

"My passion has always been for protecting those who can't protect themselves," said Flores, 26, who was born in Mexico and moved to the Las Vegas Valley as a toddler. "I want to do the things that I think make the biggest impact in life. And I want to be the one who answers the call for those who need the help."

He has a special desire to help the valley's Spanish-speaking community, what Flores calls "my community."

"I want to be out there and let them know that they can always come up to us," he said.

Metro says it needs more officers like Flores, people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Lt. Richard Meyers, who oversees Metro's recruiting efforts, called Las Vegas a "melting-pot community."

"There are people from all over the world here, and our police department must represent our community," he said. "The topic of diversity is at the forefront of all recruiting conversations."

Flores was among 48 Metro recruits who graduated to the rank of officer at a ceremony Wednesday at the Orleans.

[RELATED: How to build a diverse police force: Lessons from the corporate world]

Ten of them were born outside of the U.S. — in Mexico, Iran, the Philippines or El Salvador — and they speak languages from Spanish to Arabic, Farsi, Pashto (Afghani), Portuguese and Russian.

The class consisted of 35 men and 13 women ranging in age from 21 to 44.

"These people are resources to our community because, like I said, everybody comes to Las Vegas from all different walks of life," Flores said.

According to Metro, 20.2% of its officers are Hispanic, 9.8% Black, 6.1% Asian, 1.5% Native American or Pacific Islander, and 5.3% of two or more races.

In Clark County overall, the population is 31.6% Hispanic or Latino, 13.1% Black, 10.4% Asian, 2.1% Native American or Pacific Islander and 4.9% of two or more races, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Flores decided to join Metro after graduating from Eldorado High School and doing a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps.

After Flores left the Marines in 2018, he got a job working casino security while his wife of five years, Maria, finished her nursing degree. Now, the two have a baby on the way.

"When my wife was going into the nursing program, somebody had to pay the bills," Flores said. "Once she graduated, I knew if something happened she would be able to take care of it. So that's when I applied, and now I'm fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a police officer."

Flores was voted by fellow recruits as the distinguished graduate for the class. He demonstrated "excellence in leadership, teamwork and overall general academics," Metro Sgt. Jason Harries said.

Flores was part of the fourth class of recruits to graduate this year. At the same time, Metro's recruiting efforts are ongoing, most recently with events in California.

Police departments have struggled to find new employees since the start of the pandemic, and the challenge is even greater in finding candidates from diverse backgrounds, Meyers said.

But, he said, "Once someone interested in law enforcement does their research or talks to an LVMPD recruiter, they are usually sold. We live in a community that still supports its first responders, and we are very fortunate for that."

"Community support, coupled with the agency benefits, makes us very attractive to out-of-state candidates," Meyers said.

(c)2021 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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