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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Police Detective To Make History
Kissimmee's department will swear in 1st Hispanic sergeant
By Susan Jacobson | Sentinel Staff Writer
July 16, 2004
KISSIMMEE -- Detective Jaime Alberti often finds himself part case investigator, part translator. It's all part of the job for a Spanish-speaking officer in a city that is approaching 50 percent Hispanic.
Now, Alberti is poised to become the first Hispanic in the department's history to have a rank higher than officer. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to be sworn in as a sergeant.
"You need to have some representation of the community," Alberti said. "I think this is a step in a positive direction."
Born in Puerto Rico to Dominican parents, Alberti, 33, graduated from Colonial High School in Orlando and served four years in the Marine Corps before joining the Kissimmee Police Department 51/2 years ago.
He spent time in patrol and on the SWAT team before becoming a detective. Shortly after his promotion, he'll head back on the road.
"This job is fun," said Alberti, who pronounces his first name JAYmee. "It's zero to 60 like that. Down one second, next a bank robbery."
Alberti's promotion has instilled a sense of pride in the department's 21 other Hispanic officers on the force of about 120 sworn officers, several said.
"When you have a large Hispanic population and they see a Hispanic sergeant, they connect with him more than they would with somebody else," said Officer Georgie Torres, 24, a Puerto Rican who has been on the force for three years. "It's a really good thing."
The promotion is the natural result of a strong effort over the past couple of years to hire more minorities, Deputy Chief John Klein said.
As more Hispanics, blacks and others join the force, the pool of officers with the experience needed to assume leadership positions will increase, he said.
That is presumably true at the Sheriff's Office too, where two sergeants are the highest-ranking Hispanics on the force. There are 50 Hispanic deputies in a department of 312 sworn deputies, officials said.
The highest-ranking minority in Kissimmee police history was Cmdr. Zettie McCrimon, a black man who retired about three years ago. Alberti, who teaches defensive techniques at the Osceola Criminal Justice Academy, said he hopes his success inspires other Hispanics to aim high.
"I'd like to be chief some day," said Alberti, married with a 3-year-old son.
Alberti's colleagues -- particularly some of the younger officers, such as Hispanic rookie Matthew Oliver, 24 -- say they look up to him and view him as a natural leader and mentor.
"I don't see it as much as a Hispanic being promoted as a good officer being promoted," said Officer Omar Berrio, 29, a self-described "Nuyorican" (a Puerto Rican from New York), who has been with the department for nearly five years. "But for our community, I think it will look better."
Mindful of the city's large Spanish-speaking population, department leaders set schedules so at least one Spanish-speaking patrol officer and one bilingual dispatcher are on duty at all times, Capt. Pam Rousch said.
Alberti may not be the first Hispanic sergeant for long. The next officer on the promotion list is Camille Alicea, 32, a Hispanic woman. She will move up when a vacant captain's position is filled and other promotions are made down the line, probably in six months, Rousch said.
"That's going to be nice," Alberti said.