An Omaha Police Department captain is retiring after 25 years to focus on helping inner-city youth.
Captain Richard Gonzalez joined the department in November of 1992 after doing an internship for two summers with OPD. He says he was always interested in police work because he has a long line of family who were police officers.
“They were leaders and mentors and really guided me in the direction of police work,” added Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s brother is Deputy Chief Gregory Gonzalez.
During his time with OPD, Gonzalez has served in different departments, including patrol, investigations, internal affairs, and community service. His primary focus however, was gangs, guns and drugs.
His former supervisor, Sgt. Ray Fidone said Gonzalez was instrumental in tackling down drug problems in South Omaha.
“He was a go-getter. And we took a lot of narcotics off the streets because of him,” said Fidone. “Back when someone would have a small ounce – that was a big deal back then, but when Rich and his brother Greg came on, it was like suddenly we were removing kilos from the streets. It was all because of their contacts in South Omaha.”
Gonzalez also brought in his cultural and language expertise to OPD. In 1996, Gonzalez saw a need to have more Spanish-speaking officers in a fast-growing Latino community. He implemented a program called, ‘Command Spanish’ which taught police officers basic phrases and commands officers would need to better serve the Latino community.
“On-duty and off-duty officers would come in and learn commands that would help make a traffic stop or calm a situation. They would go to a house, and they would have the language to calm down a family, calm down kids, relax the parents tell them who they are, why they were there – all in Spanish.”
Command Spanish has since been implemented into the OPD Police Academy.
Gonzalez was also heavily involved with his community. He is a part of the Latino Peace Officers Association (LPOA) and has been involved with P.A.C.E. since it started in 2005.
“It’s very fulfilling to be a police officer and help the community, but it’s very fulfilling to see these kids grow up and actually be something bigger in the community and not in trouble and not involved with gangs,” said Gonzalez.
As Gonzalez retires his badge on Friday, he tells 3 News Now he will remain close to his fellow officers and the kids in his community.
“I’m going to stick around and help out with P.A.C.E.,” added Gonzalez. “I could’ve stayed with the police department and continued on for a little while longer and then retired, but I think this is an important part of the puzzle and when you have this piece of the puzzle and you can fit it right in, it’s going to help the youth in the long run.”
Gonzalez will serve as P.A.C.E.’s executive director full-time, focusing on his main goal: keeping youth safe and off the streets.
“We’re going to keep these kids out of jail. We’re going to keep these kids away from crime, away from gangs and it starts here. That’s why we get them young.”