Latino outreach grows

Officer Ariel Nunez, with Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley, was sworn in as the department’s newest officer on Friday.

Noemi Seibert was sworn in as a Clinton police officer in March, with Mayor Lew Starling administering the oath.

The hiring of two new officers at the Clinton Police Department marks another huge stride forward in the department’s continuing effort to reach out to its Latino population.

Ariel Nunez was sworn in Friday on the heels of Noemi Seibert’s swearing in at the end of March. Both are young Sampson natives, lauded by their new Chief Jay Tilley as two welcome additions to the local police force.

Both officers are currently in the department’s field training program, where newly-sworn officers are placed with senior officers to be mentored through the early stages of their development on the force. Nunez is just now joining that program, while Seibert is poised to exit the program in the near future.

“Both of them grew up here,” said Tilley. “They’re a couple of local kids. That’s a big benefit for us.”

Both are also bilingual, a coup in the heart of a county that has a sizable Spanish-speaking populous.

Tilley has talked about the efforts made in recent years to reach out to that Hispanic segment of the city, working in earnest since 2013 to engage in an outreach to the local Spanish-speaking population in hopes to not only bridge a communication gap but open up those lines for years to come.

Tilley went over to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clinton, just across the street from the police station, a couple years ago in order to introduce himself and hear concerns.

“We started seeing a frustration with some of the Latino population, because when they came and dealt with the Police Department there was always either a language barrier or a cultural barrier and we were having trouble communicating,” the police chief has said.

That is when the department came up with the idea to hold a Latino community meeting to hear the areas where the department could improve. It held one and then followed that success up with a second at the end of last year. Along the way, the department’s initiative has also included the development of a Spanish-language Clinton Police Department Facebook page, administered by Ambar Banos, a vital part of that community outreach.

While the first community meeting detailed the misunderstandings and barriers between Latino residents and officers, by the time the second Latino community meeting was held, it revolved less around the problems of communication and more about educating that population on the services available locally to them. It also involved officer recruitment.

“Ariel came as a result of our recruitment effort,” Tilley noted.

Seibert was raised in the Hobbton district before moving over to Clinton and then going into the Navy. Nunez attended Clinton High School. His parents run the La Tropicana Supermarket in Clinton.

“This may be the first time we’ve had multiple bilingual officers at one time with the department,” Tilley remarked. “When the police are dealing with the Hispanic community, you can almost see the ease in (a citizen’s) mind when Ariel or Noemi talk with them. They are instantly at ease with the police, where that is not always the case when there is that language barrier.”

Seibert will be a housing officer with the department’s Neighborhood Improvement Team. Nunez will be a uniformed patrolman. Tilley expects both to excel within an already strong department.

“They are two extremely good people,” the police chief said. “I’m not talking just good police officers, they’re good individuals. They’re good family folks, with a lot of common sense and very personable.”