New York State Unified Court System
OFFICE OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Newsletter • October 2022 • Issue 4
Employee Resource Groups
(ERGs) are groups of employees who join together in their workplace, based on a common characteristic like ethnicity, gender, age, religious affiliation, etc. Also referred to as fraternal or affinity organizations, ERGs provide support for their members and work to enhance career development and professional networking in the workplace. The Office of Diversity & Inclusion works closely with many of these groups, and maintains a list of UCS-ERGs on the ODI website.
Meet the NYS Courts Latino Court Officers Society
By Capt. Charles Hollon
UCS Dept. of Public Safety
It didn’t take long to “hear” pride.
While it might not be an everyday experience to hear pride in someone’s voice, it doesn’t take long to realize when you are speaking with Lieutenant Jessica Hernandez, that you are hearing the passion of pride in every word, particularly when she is talking about the Latino Court Officers Society.
The Latino Court Officers Society (LCOS) was co-founded in 2017 by Court Officer Anthony Vazquez, Sergeant Rafael Nieves, Lieutenant Erica Prosper, and Lieutenant Hernandez, with the motto of “pride, strength and unity.” The organization was born out of the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused to the island of Puerto Rico.
“We felt that we had to do something. It’s all about giving back to the community,” said Hernandez of these relief efforts. The small group of court officers worked with the FDNY Hispanic Society and U.S. Coast Guard, and with American Airlines (through a family member who worked there), to pull together resources to help the people of Puerto Rico. In 2017, LCOS and its partners collected and contributed water, canned food, diapers, formula, and hygiene products.
“I remember we had all of these hundred-pound bags of items,” Hernandez added with a smile, “including 1000 pounds of toys for the children of Puerto Rico.”
Members of LCOS with boxes of items they collected for relief efforts in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Fast forward to 2022, and Lt. Hernandez is now President of LCOS, which boasts more than 200 members, comprised of officers, court clerks and court assistants.
“We welcome anyone,” she said. “From Albany to Staten Island, the location where you work doesn’t matter. Anyone in the court system can join, and there is of course more room for growth. This group is all about helping, not only Latinos, but anyone who is in need.”
Since Hurricane Maria, LCOS has held several successful fundraisers to facilitate its efforts, which include fulfilling requests in “Letters to Santa” from children in need, who might not have gifts to open on Christmas morning. In addition, the group conducts clothing drives and food collection for the needy.
LCOS participates in “Letters to Santa” each year, donating toys to children in need.
The Society members are also proud and appreciative of their culture. “From salsa music to BBQs, we enjoy each other, so of course we have to have food and our love of music involved in just about everything,” said Hernandez with a smile. “We have also sponsored Coquito Classes and a prom dress giveaway. And in the dark days of the pandemic, the Society was faced with a daunting task – Officer Anibal Ortiz was very sick with COVID, and had complications that resulted in the loss of his left arm. We were all heartbroken, but that would not stop what we needed to do.” By collaborating with FOCO – the Fraternal Order of Court Officers – LCOS helped to raise over $46,000 to help Officer Ortiz. The fundraiser was held virtually, and donations were collected online. These funds helped with medical expenses, co-payments, and his much-needed prosthetic arm.
Mentoring and professional development has also become an important part of what the Society does. “For many, going on interviews can be a nerve-racking experience,” said Hernandez. “We offer guidance for our members when they go for that next job or promotion. I would not turn away anyone if they came to LCOS for assistance. That’s not what we represent as a community or as an officer in the New York State Court System.”
The Latino Court Officers Society marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade (2018)
As Hispanic Heritage Month concludes, Hernandez hopes that the Latino Court Officers Society continues to grow in members, and that they will continue to bring smiles to those in need. On October 6, 2022, LCOS partnered with the Cervantes Society and hosted a Hispanic Heritage Celebration Mixer, their first in-person event since the pandemic. It was a fun evening with food, refreshments, coquito, entertainment, and dancing. At this event, a fundraiser was held for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, affected by Hurricane Fiona. A total of $2,272 in donations was collected for the Hispanic Federation Hurricane Relief Fund, which is working to serve Latino communities and provide relief services to those most in need.
“We represent not only our community and our heritage,” said Hernandez. “That’s important, but it’s also important that when people come into court, they can see officers and other staff who look like them, who sound like them, and who represent the same communities that they come from.”
25 Beaver Street, New York, NY 10004
Phone: (212) 428-2540 • Fax: (212) 428-2545
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The Latino Court Officers Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, Charitable Organization.
The objective of this Fraternal Organization is to unite peace officers of the Unified Court System into a society dedicated to the mutual development and common interests of its members by perpetuating the ideals of fellowship, service, professionalism and integrity amongst its members. This society will pursue the advancement of peace officers within the Unified Court System. The Latino Court Officers Society will make the commitment to labor within our communities and give back to those in need.
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