CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Hispanic Heritage Month is underway, and we are continuing to recognize the achievements and contributions of many in our region. Camden County’s police department is making history in South Jersey, and diversity is at the forefront.
“It’s a very diverse command staff, one that we’ve never seen in the history of the police department here,” Camden County Police Chief Gabriel Rodriguez said.READ MORE: Eagles RT Lane Johnson Announces His Return, Opens Up About Mental Health
Meet Chief Rodriguez, the department’s first Hispanic chief of police. And Janell Simpson is the department’s first latina captain in the city’s history. Both were born and raised in Camden.
“Being from here, you understand the people so much more,” Rodriguez said.
They say their life experiences fueled them to become police officers, both moving up the ranks to the top positions they are in today.
“I experienced a really rough childhood growing up in the very challenging area of East Camden and I didn’t want other kids to experience the same so I wanted to be a part of the solution and not the problem,” Rodriguez said.
“I got it from my mom. She was in a little neighborhood town watch of her own. She made sure the streets was clear for us. If anyone stood out there for too long, she asked questions,” Simpson said.READ MORE: Maurice Hill, Man Accused Of Shooting 6 Philadelphia Police Officers During 2019 Standoff, To Begin Trial Monday
They hope to engage and build relationships and trust within the community, planting a little seed of hope for the youth.
“Growing up in Camden and seeing the nasty side and not ever seeing police until something bad happened, those are some of the things throughout my career I try to change,” Rodriguez said.
And it doesn’t stop there. The county also has its first Hispanic county council.
“I have two young daughters and the fact that they are seeing where their mom works and the capacity I feel like even kids, in general, can see that anything is possible,” County Council member Emeshe Arzon said.
When they are all not on the job, duty calls elsewhere.
“I go pick up my kids, and that’s when the other jobs starts,” Simpson said.MORE NEWS: WATCH LIVE: District Attorney Larry Krasner, Officials To Discuss Retaliatory Shooting Case, Reiterate Call To End Cash Bail
The officers say, most importantly, they hope to be role models and would love to see more people applying to the department in the future.