NORFOLK, Va. - We're highlighting a partnership that educates every day citizens on the ins and outs of the Norfolk Police Department.
After weeks of training, Thursday night, 20 Latino citizens graduated from the Norfolk Police Department's Hispanic Community Police Academy.
For the last eight weeks, participants of the academy have gathered at the department's first precinct for the academy.
Every week, they've had officers come in as instructors to show the citizens what to do, who to call and where to go if they ever find themselves in an emergency, or if they're a victim of a crime.
Bilingual officers have helped teach them about their positions within the department, such as forensics, criminal investigations, K-9 demonstrations, cybersafety and more.
And at Thursday's graduation, every participant received a certificate, and then celebrated that accomplishment afterwards with food, music, dancing and lots of fun.
And although NPD has similar academies for the English-speaking population, this academy is geared towards the Spanish-speaking population and community.
It was led by Cpl. Juvenal Valdez, who is also the department's first Hispanic Community Liaison Officer.
He said it's important to help break barriers, especially language barriers between the community and the police.
"Everyone was looking forward to this day - graduation - because every instructor gives them something to think about. And they always say that the best part of it is something they never knew," said Cpl. Valdez. "It's amazing what they never knew, and they can bring it back to their home, to their neighborhood, so they can educate the people that did not come to the academy. And that's the best part."
The hope is that this will help build trust and close the gap within the Latino community and officers so that they feel safer if or when they bump into them around town.
And what's even cooler is this academy also prepares them for a possible future with the department if they decide to become an officer!
Felicidades, amigos - ¡mucha suerte!