The number of Hispanic officers in the Oxnard Police Department has grown significantly throughout the years. The percentage of Hispanic officers as of Wednesday, October 20 is at 44.69 percent according to Chief of Police Jason Benites. The Oxnard Police Department currently has 226 officers, and 12 vacancies.
Aside from the nearly 45 percent of Hispanic officers in the Oxnard Police Department, 44.58 percent are White, 3.54 percent are Black, and 4.87 percent are Asian. Out of these numbers, almost 86 percent are male officers and 14 percent are female.
Benites says that it is important for agencies, especially a police department, to mirror the community that it serves.
“There are things that go with that. [Like] the likelihood of there being more cultural empathy between officers and people that they encounter during the course of their duties,” Benites said to VIDA Newspaper. “It also allows for basic communication skills, and when I say that I mean language.”
Benites mentioned that 72 (possibly more) of Oxnard’s officers know how to speak in Spanish and that it helps when they come across individuals who mainly speak that language. “When an officer and a member of the public can’t communicate with each other, having to get a translator slows things down,” Benites said.
Benites is the second Hispanic throughout the history of the Oxnard Police Department to serve as Chief of Police. He’s been in this position for about 10 months now.
Oxnard has a population of over 205,000 people, and more than 75 percent are Hispanic. Benites says that the police department works on recruiting people who are actually from Oxnard. There are currently about 85 officers in the Oxnard Police Department who either grew up or went to school in the area.
The police department has a Facebook page called Oxnard Police Department en Español that is entirely in Spanish, and it was created to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“It’s so the [Spanish-speaking] community can see what our department does, and we hope that there is always somebody out there that might catch that and say they know somebody that might be interested in working with us,” Benites said to VIDA Newspaper.
He says that the department tries to partner with as many different groups in the community to let them know that they really value local hiring. One of his goals as Chief of Police is to really push that message.
November 1 will mark Benites’ 28th year with the Oxnard Police Department. He joined in 1993, not too long after graduating from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“I worked in Downtown LA for about a year in a small law firm as a legal assistant until Oxnard PD picked me up,” Benites said, “I had been to Oxnard before I had graduated and I saw it as a really awesome place, a lot of things appealed to me about the city.”
When Benites applied for the Oxnard Police Department, he says he also applied for a large metropolitan police department. A few months after, the Oxnard Police Department invited him in for an interview.
“I showed up to the interview and everything just seemed to click, I knew that this was the place that I wanted to work,” Benites said.
Benites advises any of the youth looking to join the police force to receive an education outside of high school beforehand, if possible.
“An associate or a bachelor’s degree, I would highly encourage that,” Benites said. “I would also highly encourage them, even if they don’t get a degree, some level of life experience. We look for people that are mature, and that have developed some life skills. I think those are two very important things.”
He also mentioned that explorer programs are a great way for the youth to get involved and to get to know this profession.