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COOK COUNTY, Ill. – There is a push right now to recruit more Illinois State troopers of diverse backgrounds. 

Master Sergeant Hector Alejandre has been tasked with ISP recruitment programs for the last three years. 

He says even before the COVID-19 pandemic, state police noticed fewer applicants.  The number of state troopers fell by 20 percent in the last few years due to spending cuts and retirements. 

“We don’t have a huge number of Latinos within the Illinois State Police,” he said. “We are less than 10 percent”

Alejandre said would like the number of Latinos to reflect the Latino population in Illinois, which means the number should be closer to 20 percent. 

The effort is on to diversify the department and find more Spanish speakers, whether at the call center, cybersecurity investigations, executive detail or patrolling highways.   

Alejandre has good reason for wanting to see an increase in Latino troopers. 

“When you can communicate with someone stranded and they tell you they don’t speak English, we can say, ‘That’s ok, I speak Spanish and I’m going to help you and get you home safe,’” he said.

Recently, ISP eased some of the requirements.  A bachelor’s degree used to be required, but now an associate’s degree or 60 college credits is enough.  Applicants have to be 21 to apply and no older than 60 years old. 

The other piece of what may be keeping potential hires away is the current climate with stories about police misconduct making headlines regularly.

“We stand for integrity, service and professionalism,” Alejandre said. “And I truly believe that.  So when somebody questions that, it could be hurtful.

Having better representation within the department may help address some of the reservations about police.  That’s the hope at least as the state police department looks to mirror the diversity that’s so much a part of Illinois.

“There are so many different opportunities and that’s what I want Latinos to know.  You don’t have to be a trooper. Whatever it is that you want to do, we have it,” Alejandre said.

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