“Serving as Chief of Police for the city that welcomed me so many years ago and that has become my home is the honor of a lifetime,” said then Commander Oscar Perez in a statement about being named Chief of Police of Providence in February. Perez became the city’s 38th and first Hispanic-Latino chief.
The 52-year-old from Medellin, Colombia, moved to Rhode Island with his family just after turning 13. “I was blessed with the opportunity as a teenager to come to this beautiful country and to grow up in this community,” he said.
Perez grew up in South Providence and attended Roger Williams Middle School and Graduated from Central High School in the City of Providence. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice from Roger Williams University and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University.
“Chief Perez has demonstrated he is the dedicated public servant that can foster strong relationships within the community and is lasered focus on the quality-of-life issues our residents identified as top priorities for the next Chief,” Mayor Brett Smiley said in a statement.
In 1994, Chief Perez was appointed to the Providence Police Department as a Patrol officer. Over the past 29 years, Chief Perez has served in the Patrol Division, The Detective Division as a Youth Service Detective, The Administrative Division, The Intelligence/Special Services Division, The Gang Intervention Unit, the Neighborhood Response Team, the Community Police Bureau, The Training Academy, The office of Professional Responsibility and the Narcotics and Organized Crime Bureau.
“I am excited to give back to my community, to work with my colleagues in uniform to provide them with the proper training and resources, supporting our officers’ health and wellness, and to get to work on the big issues – decreasing gun violence, preventing crimes, supporting our youth and improving the quality-of-life in our city.”
Chief Perez addressed the significance of being the first Latino to step into the role during a press conference, “It is definitely a historical moment, a proud moment. It’s a way to tell my community and the young kids out there that you can be here as well.”
The number of Hispanic people in Rhode Island is on the rise. The latest data from the U.S. Census shows nearly 18 percent of the population identified as Hispanic or Latino in July 2022. That’s up by nearly 24,500 people, or a 13 percent jump, from the 2020 Census.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration from September 15 to October 15, recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.