BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Police Chief AJ Perez welcomed 29 new Bridgeport police officers to the force on Monday in an official swearing-in ceremony.
Since becoming mayor, Ganim has touted his efforts to diversify the police force and bring the department to full strength.
The recruits took classes at the Police Department Training Academy on Newfield Avenue. Of the 29 new officers, there are: 27 Bridgeport residents, eight women, 13 Hispanics, nine African-Americans, two officers of mixed race and one Asian officer, said Av Harris, the city’s director of communication. Only five recruits are white.
Some of the new officers met with the media in the spring to discuss their training at the time.
“Having diversity in the police department is going to help us and help our community,” said recruit Luis Ortiz, a Bridgeport native whose first language is Spanish. “You can relate to somebody more when you have something in common.”
Asked how they believed the typical resident perceives Bridgeport police officers, recruit Kamar Gidden said it all depends on the situation. Gidden, a Bridgeport resident who was once robbed at gunpoint, said his experience as a victim was as positive as could be.
“The detectives helped me out 110 percent,” he said. “With different situations come different outcomes.”
Chealsey Lancia, a recruit who is also earning her bachelor’s degree in social work, said she hopes to give residents a sense of security by going the extra mile and focusing on children’s misperceptions of police as “the bad guy.”
“We need to get to the kids at a young age that we are there to protect them,” she said.
Ovelize Elana agreed, adding she may need to look at her police work in a similar way to her work as a Marine sergeant in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan we had to convince the locals we were there for them,” said Elana, whose father has been a city police officer for nearly 20 years. “We have to convince citizens we are here for you.”
Putting together a more diverse police force will go a long way to that goal, Gidden said.
“Bridgeport is a melting pot,” he said. “You want your Bridgeport police to embody that.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.