Seymour hires first Hispanic police officer


Dying from stomach cancer, Julia Fernandez knew she wouldn’t be around to see her son grow up.

But at the age of 13, Armando Pasillas Fernandez made her a promise to always help and protect people, especially those unable to do so themselves.

On Thursday, he made good on his word by becoming Seymour’s newest and first Hispanic police officer.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Fernandez, now 27, said he felt his mother’s presence and pride during his swearing-in ceremony which took place at the end of a board of public works and safety meeting at city hall.

With his wife, Erica, and their three young children standing next to him, Fernandez placed his left hand on the Bible, raised his right hand and pledged to Mayor Craig Luedeman to serve and protect the citizens of Seymour.

It was one of the best days of his life, ranking right behind his wedding day and the births of his children.

His father, who traveled from Chicago, was in the audience along with other family and friends, including several Seymour police officers.

“I was very proud of myself,” he said. “There was a point where I thought I would never be an officer.”

When he was a child, Fernandez said he would watch the television show “Cops” all the time.

“They would have marathons of “Cops” for like six hours so we would just sit there, my Dad and I, and watch the show and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I want to be like them,’” Fernandez said of his early interest in law enforcement.

At that age, he was more attracted to the flashing lights, the sirens and the adrenaline of the job.

“As I grew older, it started changing into more wanting to help the community,” he said. “That drive as I grew older was to be able to help people, to be able to give back.”

He moved from Chicago to Seymour in 2010. In January 2012, he earned his GED from the Jackson County Learning Center.

“That’s one of the reasons why I really got it because I wanted to get into law enforcement, and obviously you can’t get in if you don’t have a high school diploma or GED,” he said.

For the past two and a half years, Fernandez has served as a dispatcher for the Seymour Police Department. He’s a voice of reassurance to people when they call 911 in a crisis situation.

He said his job is to keep them calm until help arrives.

“I reassure them that everything is going to be OK,” he said.

He’s also been invaluable as a translator for the department, helping out when language is a barrier for officers to communicate with Spanish-speaking residents.

It can be a stressful and taxing job, but one he has come to love, he said.

Fernandez said city dispatchers work closely with officers, and they have all encouraged him on his journey to become an officer. As a new police officer he is looking forward to getting to know county and state officers as well, he said.

He will leave in September to attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield for 17 weeks. There he will receive advanced training in a variety of areas, including criminal and traffic law, firearms, accident investigation, domestic violence, crime prevention and drugs and narcotics.

“I know I’ll learn a lot,” he said. “I’m excited to learn everything.”

He’s already completed all his pre-basic training in emergency vehicle operations, firearms training and defensive tactics training. His first official day on the road as an officer will be Monday. He will be paired with another officer to observe and help.

“I’ve learned a lot from riding with the other officers,” he said.

To make it this far, Fernandez had to complete an application for the position, even though he already worked for the department.

“I was told I had to apply just like anybody else,” he said.

That was followed by a physical agility test, a written exam, an oral panel interview and a medical evaluation to qualify for the state police pension fund.

Hernandez said he kept his family aware of all the different phases of the process and received support and encouragement from them every step of the way, especially his number one fan, his 5-year-old son, who also wants to be a police officer when he grows up.

“My son, Noah, he’s the one that drove me a lot to pursue this dream,” Fernandez said.

His daughters, Alondra, 6, and Camila, 4, also would wish him luck on all of his tests and interviews.

“This is where I want my kids to grow up,” he said. “Since I moved here from Chicago, Seymour has been home. I don’t see anywhere else as home. We’re just happy to be here.”

He loves the small-town feel of Seymour and enjoys being able to take his kids to the parks and the city pool, but he would like to see the Hispanic population represented more in the community by owning businesses and being involved in city government and on the school board.

“Sometimes it takes people to see somebody else do it to realize they can do it too,” he said.

Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said Fernandez earned his spot on the force after completing all the necessary requirements to be hired as an officer. Abbott said adding Fernandez will help bridge a gap between the Hispanic community and the department.

“You want your police department to represent the makeup of your community, and I think this helps with doing that,” he said. “I think Armando is a great fit for us.”

Abbott said he has reached out to the Hispanic community before through various meetings, but feels adding Fernandez will make the department more approachable.

Fernandez has already served through translating and being a dispatcher, Abbott said, but will grow in his service after joining the department.

“This is another step in his progression,” he said.

Fernandez wants his children and other young Latino youth to have positive role models in Seymour and all of Jackson County so they can see the value and importance of standing up and being involved in their community.

One of his own role models growing up was a resource officer at the high school he attended in Chicago.

“Officer Gonzalez was the first Hispanic resource officer at our school, and I was like, ‘I want to be just like him,’” Fernandez said.

Coming to Seymour, Fernandez realized he could be a Mr. Gonzalez.

He wants Hispanic kids in Seymour to look up to him and realize if he can do it, so can they.

“I think with me being the first Hispanic officer in Seymour, other kids are going to want to be able to do it too,” he said.

He’s also excited to be able to interact more with the local Spanish-speaking community.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” he said. “I don’t want people to be afraid of me. I can communicate with them, so I can go out there and talk to them. I want them to know that I’m here for them too, and I’m here to help.”

No posts to display