Fast-paced Latino music played in the background and dancers spun around on the brick outside City Hall at Saturday’s Fiesta del Otoño. The festival, a Hispanic and Latino celebration of the upcoming fall season, is in its 11th year in Bloomington.
Nearby, person after person approached Bloomington police officers at their display table, shook their hands and thanked them for their service.
“This is the most I’ve been thanked my entire career,” Bloomington Police Department officer Drew Bazan said.
BPD officers were near City Hall and the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market on Saturday for the 11th annual Fiesta del Otoño, which is Spanish for Autumn Festival.
BPD Capt. Steve Kellams said events like the Fiesta are the first step in communicating with minorities like the Hispanic and Latino communities.
“This is our first time here,” Kellams said. “We need to find out what they need.”
At their table, BPD had different resources and materials related to topics such as gun safety, which were written in Spanish. Seventeen other organizations were at the event in support of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15.
Also present were city groups like Bloomington Transit with schedules of all the bus routes throughout the city.
La Casa Latino Cultural Center was also present at the event. At each table the event organizers posted pictures of different Hispanic and Latino people from United States history that were deemed important, such as teachers and civil servants. One of those people was Edmundo Mireles.
Mireles served in the U.S. Army, was a World War II prisoner of war, worked for the FBI and worked at the Federal Aviation Administration for 16 years.
He later won the FBI Medal of Valor for his actions during the 1986 Miami shootout, which involved eight FBI officers and two serial bank robbers.
During the shootout, Mireles was injured and was unable to use his left arm after being shot. As a result, he needed to figure out a way to shoot a shotgun one-handed. He did this and helped kill the suspects.
Mireles’ technique for firing a shotgun one-handed became the way all officers were trained after the Miami shootout. Another of the many groups at the Fiesta del Otoño on Saturday was the Sister Cities program.
Dave Boeyink, a member of the Posoltega committee of Bloomington Sister Cities, said that the event is a great opportunity for the community to come together and learn about each other.
“It brings people together,” Boeyink said. “It’s a good education tool.”
The Sister Cities program is a 28-year-old program that works with Posoltega, Nicaurgaua and other cities in Latin America to provide scholarship for education, meals for families and other opportunities in Latin America.
BPD is currently involved in trying to better their outreach and communication throughout this year and in different parts of the community, Kellams said.
Kellams, as part of a new communication initiative, said he has helped utilize the BPD social media presence, taking their Facebook page from 3,000 likes at the beginning of the year to approximately 13,000.
Kellams also said that while BPD has not heard about any problems from the Latino community, that does not mean that there are not any problems. That need for communication is one reason why BPD is also having a Latino Family night at Bloomington North High School on Oct. 17.
The training that BPD goes through has set the police up to work well with minority groups and that its time to utilize it, Kellams said. He explained that BPD trains officers to treat every person fairly in the course of their job.
“Treat everyone the same, treat everyone fairly and be professional,” Kellams said.