First Latina deputy joins Sheriff’s Office

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Edgecombe County Deputy Alejandra Diaz Hernandez stands at her patrol car Wednesday at the Sheriff's Office in Tarboro.


Staff Writer

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to diversify its ranks.

Alejandra Diaz Hernandez, 21, was recently sworn in as the first female Latino deputy to work at the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a honor to be a part of this agency,” Hernandez said. “The employees here are very helpful and even before I became a deputy officer, I had a couple problems and they always came out and helped me out. I’ve gotten to know this community so well and that made me want to be a part of the Sheriff’s Office that has good people and a good sheriff (Clee Atkinson).”

Hernandez said she was born in Mexico but has lived in Edgecombe County since 2005. She received her citizenship at age 7. Hernandez graduated in June from Edgecombe County College’s 20-week Basic Law Enforcement Training but had to wait six months until her 21st birthday to start at the Sheriff’s Office.

“My interest in law enforcement started about three years ago when there was a career fest event at ECC,” she said. “I got in contact with Bernie Taylor, who is the BLET director at the community college. He was saying how I could make an impact in people’s lives and being Hispanic how I could help my community.”

Hernandez said she hopes to help bridge the gap between local law enforcement and the Hispanic and Latino community. According to state figures, less than 3 percent of the population in Edgecombe County are Hispanic or Latino.

“It’s an honor to be here to represent my community,” Hernandez said. “I want to help out the Hispanic community because there are some problems they’re scared to report. I am bilingual and some Hispanics are scared to communicate with some law enforcement because of their legal statuses and are always scared they might get deported.”

Atkinson said it was critical for him to listen to the Hispanic and Latino community because they want a better connection with law enforcement and having a Spanish-speaking officer is vital.

“I kind of went out aggressive and tried to recruit her,” he said. “I think she is going to be real strong asset to her community as well as the Sheriff’s Office. “One of the biggest things in the Latino community is they are really afraid of immigration (agents) and you see what’s going on across the news. They’re also afraid of traffic stops, and we have to have a better conversation of explaining laws. Sometimes there is a language barrier, but there are a lot of great hard-working people in the Latino community. Part of my job is to make sure their needs are met.”

Hernandez, whose future aspirations include working for the federal government, hopes going into law enforcement will convince more women to become law enforcement officers.

“I’ve had females ask me about BLET, and they don’t think they’re physically ready,” she  said. “But I tell them, if you really prepare yourself, you can get into this agency. I’m small and I weigh about 120 pounds — so if I can do it, you can do it. Some people don’t believe a female police officer is brave enough to do this job, but I feel if you’re really into it and really want to make a change, you will do what you need to do.”

While women aren’t always as physically gifted as their male counterparts, Hernandez said she believes female officers are sometimes better at defusing situations that become hostile or confrontational.

“We may not be as strong as guys, but for females when working with suspects that are in custody they will actually cooperate better with females than male officers because guys sometimes want to act tough and show their authority, while females can calm down or de-escalate the situation,” she said.