SALINAS, Calif. (AP) — Some police officers in a largely Latino city in Northern California are reaching out to the community in a new way — wearing uniforms that resemble the traditional Mexican charro suit.
Two Salinas police officers wore blue suede charro suits embellished with silver embroidery, a blue and white bow and topped with a white sombrero as they patrolled the city’s annual rodeo, drawing lines of people who wanted a photo with them, the Salinas Californian newspaper reported Thursday.
The uniform, which the officers wore on different days to the rodeo last week, also has stitched-on badges and other details needed to make it ready for use on duty in case of an emergency. “Charro” means a Mexican-style cowboy.
Salinas Police Chief Adele Fresé said that by having officers wear the charro suit, the department is validating the heritage and culture of the community, where more than three-quarters of residents are Latino.
“We’re going to demonstrate that we value the rich history of the people we’re sworn to protect and serve,” she said.
It comes amid tensions between police and communities of color in many cities across the U.S. and as President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to stop the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Officer Gabe Carvey, a Salinas native who came up with the idea of wearing the uniform, said dressing in charro garb is another way to recognize Salinas’ Mexican heritage as well as help unite people.
“The great thing about our country is, although we’re all Americans, we have cultures that we can all share with each other. It’s beautiful we can come together on something,” Carvey said.
This is the first year officers in the charro suit helped patrol the rodeo, the biggest event in the agricultural city of 160,000 people. Other officers wore Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and Stetson hats.
There are plans to make male and female charro police suits and have more officers wear them at next year’s rodeo, the newspaper reported.