Last Friday, Mayor Brett Smiley announced that Oscar Perez, previously a commander in the Providence Police Department, will serve as the 38th chief of the PPD. Smiley’s decision was informed by a public survey and forum, The Herald previously reported. Oscar Perez, an immigrant from Colombia, will be the first Latino to occupy the position.
According to a Feb. 10 press release, Perez has served the PPD for 29 years, starting as a patrol officer and rising to the role of deputy chief. During his tenure, Perez “implemented a department-wide community policing bureau policy and spearheaded several police community relations initiatives,” the press release stated.
Perez’s focus on community relations also motivated Smiley’s decisions. Smiley said that “Chief Perez has demonstrated he is (a) dedicated public servant that can foster strong relationships within the community and is (laser focused) on the quality-of-life issues our residents identified as top priorities.”
Perez highlighted the need to “get to work on the big issues,” which he identified as gun violence, crime prevention, youth support and quality-of-life for Providence residents. “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 … I am excited to give back to my community,” Perez said in the press release.
Perez immigrated from Medellín, Colombia, at the age of 13. He attended Providence public schools and holds a bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University and a master’s degree from Boston University, both in criminal justice, the Providence Journal previously reported. He is also a board member of the Nonviolence Institute, which works to create “a community that uses the principles and practices of nonviolence to prevent, interrupt and heal violence and to uplift community,” according to their website.
During a press conference, Perez addressed the significance of being the first Latino to step into the role. “It is definitely a historical moment, a proud moment,” he said. “It's a way to tell my community and the young kids out there that you can be here as well.”
Julia Vaz is a Metro editor covering the environment and crime and justice beats. She is a sophomore from Brazil studying Political Science and Literary Arts.