LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — This year, Richard Mendez became Lancaster’s first Hispanic police chief. For over 20 years, Chief Mendez has been patrolling the streets of Lancaster looking for signs of trouble.
“You go through parts of the city and you remember stuff from your childhood, as a kid, as a teenager, and even as an officer you start to remember a call here or something that happened there,” said Richard Mendez, Lancaster City’s chief of police.
He’s witnessed the worst and the best of humanity.
“I remember a call where one of these houses was on fire. The apartment was fully engulfed and there was a lady dangling a small child out a third-floor window, and there was people on the sidewalk. They were each holding a corner of this blanket, of this bed sheet. It had a great ending because they caught this child,” Richard Mendez said.
Now Chief Mendez is setting an example, especially for the southeast neighborhood of Lancaster where he grew up.
“I had hard-working parents, but obviously we didn’t come from much. We came from humble beginnings,” Mendez said.
He went to McCaskey High School and got a job washing cars after college until he found his way into the police department. Then he rose through the ranks with the Lancaster City Bureau of Police.
“There’s nothing special about me. I was the kid that is there now. If I can do it, anybody can do it. Whether it is the police chief, maybe you want to be a doctor, a lawyer,” Mendez said.
Mendez is making history as the city’s first Hispanic chief of police since his promotion back in July. This comes at a time when the focus of policing has changed.
“We enforce laws, that’s the core thing of policing, but we also have to be marriage counselors, we have to mediate neighborhood disputes, we deal with mental health,” Mendez said.
In his new position, he’s looking to build more trust in the community and go back to the old ways.
“By this I mean getting out of your vehicle, talking to people in the community, going into the corner store, and getting to know your business owners,” Mendez said.
Mendez says he’s ready to pick up where the former police chief left off.
“Ultimately when I leave here I don’t want to be remembered as the first Hispanic or the police chief that came up through the ranks and grew up in the city,” Chief Mendez said.
Mendez says he’s not after the accolades, he just wants to leave a lasting impression.
“‘He was a great person. He really took care of the officers. He really took care of the community. He took the police department to the next level.’ That’s what I want to be remembered for,” he said.