(Oxnard, Ca) Retired Oxnard Police Commander (and Retired Navy Captain) Ralph (Rafael) Nieves discusses his time with the Oxnard Police Department and his current work as the California President for the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Nieves starts with sharing that he is from Puerto Rico but moved with his family to New York. He enlisted in the Navy which ultimately brought him to California. Nieves joined the Navy after graduating from high school and spent 8 years on active duty. He later decided he wanted to become a police officer and switched to the Navy reserve. When he retired with the police department he was called back to Active Duty with the Navy and spent several years there until he retired in 2012.
Nieves worked with the Oxnard Police Department and retired as a Commander.
In discussing the relationship between police and the community, Nieves says his best advice to both sides is to listen to one another and to have a consistent dialogue.
Nieves then goes on to provide an example of where the community has supported him as an officer. He described a situation where a man named “Bobby” who was 6 foot 7 inches, was pulled over, and had an outstanding warrant. Bobby’s car was pulled over in shouting distance of his grandmother’s home. It was this grandmother that called for back up for then Officer Nieves because she knew things might get ugly. When it appeared that Bobby might actually resist arrest, “Grandma” shouted out to Bobby and caused him to put his hands behind his back for Officer Nieves to cuff and arrest him without incident.
“This community has respect for family,” explained Nieves.
Nieves then shares a story about a father with a daughter. The girl, who lost her mom, kept running away and the father felt unable to help or resolve the situation. Nieves asked the man if he had any family and the man responded that he had some sisters to which Nieves responded that the father should enlist their help. The father shared, “I don’t want to bother them.”
Nieves counseled the man, “You have to bother them. They are your family.” After engaging the girl’s aunt, she stopped running away. Nieves explained that the family unit is key to resolving many societal challenges seen by officers.
Nieves then went on to discuss the National Latino Peace Officers Association and how it was started in the 1970’s by two officers that were looking to help Latino’s gain equal opportunity in law enforcement at a time where few Latinos were in law enforcement and even fewer in leadership position.
Nieves joined the organization in 1980 when he was with the Oxnard Police Department. The group’s goal is to help the community understand law enforcement and to help law enforcement understand the community. The group stays involved in the community to help law enforcement resolve issues most effectively.
The Oxnard Police Department and the National Latino Peace Officers Association partner together for “Shop with Santa” which is done at Target Stores. Target provides a 10% discount in addition to the funds donated by the community.
Nieves shared many heart warming stories of the generosity of the kids receiving the $200 gift cards. “One kid bought a coat for his mom as well as toys for his siblings. Some kids were buying frying pans and dishes. One kid really wanted a big tablet but realized he would not have enough left for buying presents for his brother. So he got a smaller one and used the extra money for the gift he wanted for his brother.
The National Latino Peace Officers Association host many fundraising events throughout the year. These funds are used for grants and gift to the community. To support this organization, visit their website: http://www.nlpoaventuracounty.com/
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