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Sergeant wants to help other Hispanic people to achieve

POSTED: May 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed /The Times

Hall County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jose Rogerio Tapia, right, with Maj. Ramone Gilbert, is the first Hispanic man to make the rank of sergeant in the sheriff's office.

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Sgt. Jose Rogerio Tapia quietly made history last month.

Tapia, an 18-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, became the first person of Hispanic ethnicity to reach the rank of sergeant in local law enforcement history. Neither the sheriff’s office nor Gainesville Police Department has had a Latino reach that supervisory rank before.

As Hall County’s booming Hispanic population continues to grow, Tapia hopes his will be one of many Latino achievements to come in local law enforcement. He handled the milestone with humility and grace in a recent interview.

"I think anyone would feel honored," he said. "But I don’t think I became a sergeant because of my Hispanic background. I believe I earned it."

Tapia, known to his colleagues as "Tap," shares supervisory duties with Sgt. Tim Couch, overseeing about 30 court services deputies who handle security at the Hall County Courthouse.

Tapia was born and raised in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. His parents were of Mexican descent. He moved to Gainesville in 1989 and joined the Hall County Sheriff’s Office in 1991, working first as a jailer, then court services deputy and instructor in the ADVANCE program for grade school-age students. He made the rank of corporal as a court services deputy in 2006 and was promoted to sergeant on April 16.

"I’ve always had a passion for law enforcement and criminal justice," Tapia said, noting he had relatives who also worked in law enforcement.

Despite his humility, he recognizes the significance of his recent promotion.

"Although I am very proud of my background, I hope this is more gratifying to the Latino community," he said.

Tapia is one of only 13 employees of Hispanic ethnicity among the 483 employees in the sheriff’s office. He says he believes it is "very important that we have more Hispanics" working in law enforcement, and hopes more will seek out careers in the field.

"I believe that a lot of our recent (high school) graduates who are Hispanic should be considered if they meet the requirements," he said. "There should be a lot of good recruits."



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