Growing up in eastern New Orleans, Kevin Nguyen says the focus in the Vietnamese community was always on family.
“Everybody here is a big family,” said Nguyen. “Everybody goes to the same church, the same school.”
It’s that strong family foundation that drove Nguyen to serve his country and his community. He graduated from Chalmette High School and, after college, joined the U.S. Army. After his service in the Army, Nguyen says he knew he wanted to do more for the Vietnamese community that raised him.
“I went through college, joined the military and when I came back, I was like, I want to do something that's also serving my country, like the Army does, instead get closer to my people,” said Nguyen.
After speaking with a current NOPD Vietnamese officer, Nguyen applied to join the next recruit class. At 21 years old, he’s one of the youngest recruits in Class #176. He’s also the only Vietnamese recruit.
“There are a lot of Vietnamese people here who do not know how to speak English at all, and I need to help them out,” said Nguyen, who’s both fluent in Vietnamese and English.
Earlier this year, the NOPD launched a team of bilingual officers to improve communication and strengthen relationships with limited English-speaking communities across the city. Certified bilingual officers earn a five-percent pay increase for using their language skills on the job.
Nguyen says he hopes his decision to serve will help build more trust between the NOPD and the Vietnamese community.
“If I come in, I feel that the Vietnamese community will report more crimes,” he said. “I feel that half of these Vietnamese families do not want to trust the police because they don't have anyone they can talk to, who they can relate to or who doesn't come from the community and speak their language.”
He also hopes to spark interest from others in the Vietnamese community who want to see their patrol officers reflect their neighborhoods.
The NOPD will launch two more recruit classes in 2016. Go to www.joinnopd.org to apply today.