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Two Latinas Join The City’s Police Advisory Commission

Naiymah Sanchez, a proud transgender Latina working with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Sonia E. Velázquez, a retired Inspector with over 30 years of service,…

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On Monday, August 28th, the Office of the Mayor announced the thirteen members of the newly minted City’s Police Advisory Commission, a task force designed to mend the relationship between civilians and the police. A diverse entity comprised of citizens hailing from various civic, advocacy, legal, and law enforcement backgrounds, it appears that this commission will bare the face of nearly every type of adult Philadelphian. “A young black man with an intellectual disability”, a Muslim pharmacist, a Jewish woman, a gun safety activist, a “proud mentor, people lover, problem solver, and troublemaker”, an electrical engineer… It seems like no one is missing, and this includes the faces of Philadelphian Latinos.

Naiymah Sanchez is a proud transgender Latina who works as a Transgender Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Sonia E. Velázquez is a retired Inspector with over 30 years of service, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors for the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association and Concilio. Though the two women do have professional and personal differences, their interests have overlapped in seedy (but necessary) terrain: hankering down on prison rape, stalking, and domestic violence in Philadelphia.

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Sanchez has worked directly with Philadelphia prison system officers in order to ensure compliance with The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which applies to all correctional facilities. In 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggested that every year, about 70,000 prisoners were sexually abused. Most victims are immigrants, women, or transgendered women. When she is not championing the PREA, Sanchez worked for almost five years as the coordinator of The Trans-Health Information Project, and was recently honored by BillyPenn as one of the “10 Philly transwomen who [have made] history”.

Velázquez, after serving as a Former Commanding Officer of the Victim Services Unit, recognized the need for entering the Philadelphia Police Department with the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crimes. The partnership, implemented in the late 1990s,  included educating and training both the community and their police officers on how to respond to stalking and domestic violence effectively in order to ensure victim safety. Moreover, the “scope, nature, and dynamics of the crimes; national, state, and local prevalence statistics; potential lethality, generic and legal definitions; levels of reporting; reasons for hesitation to report; and the interrelationships among these crime categories” were conveyed during trainings in order to increase the efficacy of the project.

If no one else wants to do it because it’s “challenging” or “uncomfortable”, you can be sure that a strong woman of color will take the duty upon herself- and will do her duty effectively. The City’s Police Advisory Commission has never been in more capable hands.

 
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