Project Unity Initiates Conversation Between Police, Hispanic Community

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By WVUA 23 News Reporter Kayla Smith

Project Unity brought together officers from the Tuscaloosa Police Department, the Northport Police Department and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office with members of the Hispanic community on Sunday.

“Everything in this world is a partnership, and we feel like we haven’t been involved in the Hispanic community in many years,” said Tuscaloosa Chief of Police Brent Blakeley.  “We just want to change that and start letting people know that ‘Hey, we’re there for you.’ ”

The event offered a space for open communication between law enforcement officers and the Hispanic community. Participants asked questions about a variety of topics including valid forms of ID and language accessibility for Spanish-speakers.

“[The police] want to get closer to the Hispanic community,” said event organizer Jheovanny Gomez. “They want for the Hispanic community to be an asset for the police department as well. So, here we are all getting together trying to be one.”

Blankley said both police and members of the Hispanic community have a lot that can be learned from each other.

“We realize there is a disconnect, and we’re afraid some people may not be reporting crimes because they are afraid of police,” Blankley said.

Tuscaloosa County Deputy Sheriff Jessica McDaniel said she wants to remind people that law enforcement’s primary job is to serve everyone in the community.

“We also want to stress that we are here to protect and provide services and resources for victims of crime when we can,” McDaniel said.

Attendees from both groups said they left the event with a better understanding of how to move forward.

“Well I’m going to take what I learned today back to my department and address a few issues or concerns,” said Northport Chief of Police Gerald Burton.  “Hopefully we can open up that line of communication between the law enforcement community and the Hispanic community.”

Police said they heard concerns about ID verification and language accessibility, and they hope to soon implement new training and programs in their departments to bridge those gaps.

For more information about the city of Tuscaloosa’s Project Unity, visit

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