The police chief in Aurora, a city on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, has asked a Hispanic ministerial alliance to help recruit Latinos who want to become police officers.

In a letter sent to the Confianza Christian ministerial alliance, police chief Dan Oates says that the Aurora Police Department intends to hire up to 30 new recruits from among those who complete the training course that will begin this November.

"It's a marvelous opportunity for young men and women who attend churches and want to pursue a career in law enforcement," the president of that organization, Fidel Montoya, told Efe.

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To participate, interested young people must send in their application request during the first week of April.

Oates said in his letter, which was made public by Montoya, that he would like to "improve the diversity" of the department and in particular increase the number of Hispanic officers in the ranks.

The police chief added that the department was focusing its recruitment efforts in churches with significant African American and Hispanic congregations.

In his letter, the police chief asks the pastors in different Hispanic churches in Aurora to agree to allow Spanish-speaking police officers to come there so that before or after the religious services they will have the chance to explain to the churchgoers the benefits of joining the department.

Oates also asked the pastors to permit the police officers to make "brief comments" during the services, especially to explain that bilingual people receive additional points during the process of selection of candidates for entry into the police academy.

For Montoya, who during the 1990s worked as Denver's public safety director, Oates' invitation is a great opportunity for the young people of the community.

According to the Census, Aurora is the third largest city in Colorado with 325,000 residents. Of those, 29 percent are Hispanic.

Two out of every three of those Hispanics are immigrants and more of them prefer to speak Spanish.

In contrast, just 12 percent of the 650 police officers in Aurora are Hispanic or African American, according to department figures.

Montoya said that the contact between Latino clergy and the police department began in July 2011 after a policeman beat a Hispanic man who was inside his pickup truck in the parking lot of a local store.

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The confused incident is still being investigated by police and judicial authorities.

Montoya said that because of this episode, several pastors expressed their desire to cooperate in the recruitment of more Latino police officers.

The Aurora police began recruiting Latinos six decades ago. In 1956, Hector Jordan was the first Hispanic police officer in the city, followed two years later by Peter Pérez.

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