About 40 residents of Puerto Rico, recruited by D.C. police officials during a May trip to the island territory, will be sworn in as police cadets on Monday and begin training for the force.
The addition of the recruits, many of whom have served in the U.S. armed forces, will almost double the number of Hispanics on the city's 3,880-member police force, but has drawn criticism from some leaders of the growing local Hispanic community that the new officers are expected to serve.
"It's culturally inappropriate to go to Puerto Rico to get recruits who will serve a Hispanic population here in the District," said Archila Andres, assistant director of the MultiCultural, a high school for foreign language residents in Adams-Morgan. "What's going on culturally and socially in Puerto Rico is very different than the experience of Hispanics here."
Police union officials also have questioned the department's commitment to D.C. residency regulations, which were designed to give District residents an edge in getting city government jobs, in addition to increasing city coffers by requiring employes to live here.
Assistant Chief Carl V. Profater, who is in charge of administrative services for the police department including recruitment, refused to comment on the hiring of the Puerto Rican candidates and told the recruits not to talk to news reporters.
"We reserve all comments until a Monday press conference," Profater said. "We will answer all questions at that time and not before then."
In an earlier interview, Profater said local recruitment of Hispanic candidates had not been very successful because many applicants were immigrants and did not meet the city's requirement that officers be American citizens. Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
Some leaders in the Hispanic community, which is largely concentrated in Adams-Morgan, said they are pleased that the number of Hispanic officers will be increased, but said they believe that a greater effort should have been made to attract candidates from this area.
Yasmin Griffiths-Garabito, a businesswoman and community activist in Adams-Morgan, said that when the recruits become officers, they may have problems adjusting to a different environment.
"I would have to say that the barrios [ghettoes] in Puerto Rico are much tougher than the barrios here. But if the community finds out these people were brought in from Puerto Rico, they might resent it for a while.
"There are some young men and women in the community who are unemployed, and with a little effort on the part of the department they would have joined the force."
Gary Hankins, head of the Fraternal Order of Police's labor committee, said he has been told that the recruits will have to meet the city's residency requirement and that they will not receive any bonuses or premiums to help cover their living expenses or moving costs.
About half of the recruits have arrived in Washington, and some who do not have families here are staying at the Harrington Hotel, Hankins said.
The police department's Community Relations Division recently ran a classified advertisement seeking housing "at market price" for the new police recruit class.
Hankins added that the candidates may have been lured by the prospect of bigger salaries, but said they may be discouraged by the high cost of living in the District.
"When you're in Puerto Rico, finding out that you're going to make $20,000 as a police officer sounds like a lot of money," Hankins said. "But they'll find out different."
Police Capt. Daniel Flores of the 4th District, one of the highest-ranking Hispanic officials in the department, said he hopes the new recruits will bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and the police department.
"Based on present figures, I don't think there are enough opportunities [for Hispanics]. We have not had enough bilingual officers to meet the needs of the community on a daily basis," Flores said.