Latinas: A Growing Force at the NYPD

Nilda Hofmann at One Police Plaza (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

In the 1980s, you could count with one hand the number of Hispanic women in a graduating class at the police academy. This has radically changed and, today, Latinas are the largest group of women joining the police force every year.

Figures of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) show that Hispanic women are the fastest-growing demographic among women in force, representing 6.6%, more than white and African-American women, who have 5.2 percent each, and 0.6 percent of Asians.

Slowly but surely, Latinas have reached high-ranking positions in the force. El Diario spoke with some of them at the One Police Plaza NYPD headquarters, and they confirmed the progress they have seen over the years.

Nilda Hofmann, executive officer at the NYPD Risk Management Bureau, said that she did not know any police officers when she was young and that she and her neighbors used to run away from them.

Hofmann, whose maiden name is Irizarry, grew up on 197th Street and Decatur Avenue in The Bronx, in a Puerto Rican family. She ended up in the police force after her mother asked her to translate for a neighbor at a job agency and the agent suggested that she go to work for the police. During the first few years, she had a civilian position, but she later graduated, seeking better opportunities and pay.

“When I started moving up the ranks, I realized that I was not only helping myself but the people around me who admired me because I reached that position,” said Hofmann. The mother of three added that she was the first female and Hispanic chief to the staff she currently supervises.

The fact that she speaks Spanish came in handy for Hoffman when she was named commanding officer to the 25th Precinct, which includes El Barrio, and later to the 52nd Precinct in The Bronx, where she was raised. There, she motivated her officers to reach out to residents to let them know about the services they have available, such as child care and monthly meetings at the precincts.

In her current position, Hofmann leads the team in charge of implementing the recommendations made by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who ruled that “stop and frisk” was unconstitutional. One of those recommendations was the use of body cameras.

Hoffman and Ellen Chang, the deputy chief of the Internal Affairs Bureau, are the highest-ranking Hispanic women in the NYPD.

A key role

Although there is still a long way to go before NYPD numbers reflect New York City’s Hispanic female population, Latinas in the force play a crucial role in improving the relationship between the community and the police.

“We need people with diverse talents who come from the community, who understand the community, and who are able to support the community patrolling and neighborhood policing initiatives put in place by Commissioner O’Neill in a unique manner,” said Deputy Commissioner for Trials Rosemarie Maldonado, whose office handles cases of police officers accused of misconduct.

Rosemarie Maldonado, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Trials. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Maldonado is the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in a civilian position in the NYPD. However, she did not start out as an officer but as a district attorney upon obtaining her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, of Puerto Rican parents, her father instilled the value of community service on her from an early age by bringing her to his job at a travel agency that also assisted the Puerto Rican community in navigating municipal services.

When she was preparing at PRLDEF, now LatinoJustice, to take her law school admission test, she was told that there were only 100 Hispanic lawyers in New York City. Now, the mother of two is part of a group of hundreds of female attorneys who meet every two months. “To see that this network of Latina lawyers now has over 700 people is amazing,” she said from her office at One Police Plaza.

Maldonado worked in several positions as an attorney for City Hall, and eventually became assistant vice president and counsel at John Jay College. She still keeps a copy of a piece El Diario wrote on her when she was chosen for this new role in her office.

Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton assigned her to her current position around the same time Eric Garner was killed at the hands of police officers on Staten Island in 2014.

“I knew that it was a critical moment, I knew that community relations and accountability were very important issues, and I knew that the disciplinary process was going to have a positive and significant impact,” said Maldonado, explaining why she accepted the unpopular and challenging role.

Both Hofmann and Maldonado would like to see more women and Hispanics in the force. “The problem with women in the police is that they don’t think they can have a career and a family at the same time,” said Hofmann.

Both high-ranking Latinas are proof that, although it takes sacrifice and a support system, it is possible to balance both roles. Aside from the fact that the police force offers a good salary to sustain their families, it is also a great opportunity to be pioneers in an institutions historically dominated by men.

Women in the NYPD

  • 36,000 officers form the NYPD.
  • 6,373 of them are women.
  • 17.5 percent of all officers are women.
  • 3,397 of the women in the NYPD are Hispanic.
  • 6.6 percent of all women in the NYPD are Hispanic.
  • 5.2 percent of all women in the NYPD are white.
  • 5.2 percent of all women in the NYPD are African-American.
  • 0.6 percent of all women in the NYPD are Asian.

Most recent NYPD Police Academy graduating class:

  • 555 officers graduated.
  • 39 were Hispanic women.
  • 23 were black women.
  • 33 were white women.
  • 6 were Asian women.
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