KISSIMMEE, Fla. – For Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez, the county’s first Hispanic sheriff, it’s important for him to speak to residents the way a large and growing portion speaks to him -- in Spanish.
“Just having a sheriff who can have a general conversation with anybody in Spanish or English, they really like that,” Lopez said. “They understand that I can understand their culture.”
In the past few weeks, Lopez began recording two versions of his “Caught in the Act” segment that highlights a wanted suspect or a notable arrest.
The videos are posted on the Sheriff’s Office YouTube and Facebook pages and Facebook en Espanol -- “Oficina del Alguacil del Condado de Osceola.”
Lopez admitted that prior to his election, the Sheriff’s Office never used social media like this.
“Why? I don’t know. This is a valuable tool,” Lopez said.
Last year, Lopez ran for sheriff because, he said, the office wasn’t connecting with the majority Hispanic community it serves.
About 35% of the Sheriff’s Office staff was bilingual when he took over, while Osceola County is about 66% Spanish-speaking, according to Lopez.
“We found there were almost 900 calls coming in to communications requesting some type of Spanish help,” Lopez said. “There were times where you might have someone call, screaming about a child drowning, and they’re [dispatchers] like, ‘What are they saying?’ and they start going for the translation and they start calling the language bank, and it takes a few minutes.”
One of the sheriff’s video segments now plays in Puerto Rico and has gotten results, capturing fugitives that fled to Central Florida, he said.
Lopez has hired several bilingual deputies and dispatchers, including a Spanish-speaking complaint taker and interpreter, instead of relying on a third-party service.
“So we’re planning to employ more people that are bilingual in order to reach and look more like the community and build that relationship so people can start understanding the ‘why’ we do things here,” Lopez said. “How this started is a lot of people were asking for transparency.”
The videos aim to show what deputies actually do and even what the sheriff does in a segment he calls “Busted by the Sheriff.”
“So if you’re out there doing something wrong, I’m going to slap the cuffs on you,” Lopez said. “I do it all the time.”
Lopez is also working on creating a Sheriff’s Office Instagram page in Spanish. He’s even considering making TikTok videos.