Brandon Bermudez was introduced to a law enforcement career early.
His father was a probation officer and Bermudez became interested in law enforcement while at Greece Olympia High School.
Now he’s in a position to influence others.
Bermudez, recently honored for his promotion to corporal in the Monroe County Jail, is part of the recruitment team for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
While promotions are ongoing, the Sheriff’s Office holds one ceremony a year to recognize all who have achieved a new rank.
On Feb. 25, the following were among 30 from the department being celebrated for advancement: Investigator Marvin Patterson to court bureau chief; Sgt. Providence Crowder to jail lieutenant; and Bermudez and Tardus Taylor from deputy to jail corporals.
“Law enforcement recruiting has been down lately,” said Bermudez, who has worked in the jail for 4 ½ years.
“You see a lot of bad things in the news, not so many good things. I feel like it’s making people shy away from the job a little bit. Ultimately, our goal is to find some quality recruits, but also we’re going to try to pinpoint some minorities to make it a diversified organization.”
Bermudez said people assume from his last name that he speaks Spanish. He doesn’t, but he said that fluency in the language could lead some of the inmates to open up more to him.
Learning that he was part of the ceremony with the largest number of African Americans and Hispanics in memory made Taylor smile.
“The reason why I took this job is to show minorities that there is another avenue in law enforcement,” he said. “By having such a large promotion class, it validates that.”
Taylor, who holds a degree in sociology, said his family wanted him to follow tradition and work in the church. He said law enforcement usually isn’t considered unless friends or family already are on the job.
“I wanted to be that person that young minorities see as a role model,” he said. “It’s a fantastic career. There are lot of opportunities. Advancement, retirement, just the prestige of the position, the importance of it.”
Commander Janson McNair, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 24 years, said the number of minorities shows Sheriff Todd Baxter’s commitment to diversity.
“If you don’t have command staff that represents the community, you’re not going to get those other folks from the entry level as well,” McNair said. “That was his vision and he’s proven that by the promotions he’s making.”
McNair said that Baxter has changed the way the office recruits. It no longer passively waits for people to come to them but instead has a diversity team will go up to an individual and ask if they’ve thought about a career in law enforcement.
“We used to put up a table and hope people would come to the table,” McNair said. “We even called it the table of hope.”
He said his job is to let minorities know that the Sheriff’s Office offers a career path. “Unfortunately in the past, maybe folks didn’t think that was an option because they did not see minorities working for the Sheriff’s Office. We have a lot of great minorities that work here, so we’re showcasing them, putting them out front, putting them as our recruiters going out and saying, join our team, we want more minorities to join the department.”
McNair says recruiting has become like putting together a college basketball team. “A basketball coach does not wait and see who applies to the school and then says, ‘That guy’s pretty tall, let’s see if he wants to be on the team. We’re going out and finding people where they are.”
McNair said he is reviewing the paperwork of one woman who said she’d never considered working as a deputy until a recruiter approached her while she was shopping in the mall.
Patterson, who was elevated to court bureau chief, said leadership and mentorship roles are there for anyone who wants to them on. He said that traits necessary involve drive, ambition and the will to learn.
The Sheriff’s Office was holding a graduation Feb. 28 for a road patrol class. No African Americans or Latinos completed the academy, but the class of seven included three females.
Five of 51 deputies in the most recent and two previous classes were minorities. There were two Latino males, one African American male, one African American female and one Asian male. The total number of females in the three classes was 17.
While recruitment to the department is crucial, retention also matters.
“Once you take your first promotion, it’s infectious,” said McNair, who has been promoted several times. In 2017 and 2019, he was the only minority honored in the promotion ceremony. “After you get promoted, you’re looking for the next one. That’s what folks are doing, that’s what we’re seeing, which is good.”
This was the third promotion for Crowder. In 2016, she was the only African American in the promotion ceremony. Her first promotion was in 2007.
“It’s a matter of us encouraging each other to take the promotional exam and to do well enough, to score high enough to get in the running,” she said. “As far as people coming in, we have a concerted minority recruitment effort going on just to get our numbers up. The more people that we have working the job, that’s the more opportunities for minorities to get promoted.”
The Rochester Police Department has scheduled its ceremony for March 20 to honor recent promotions. Capt. Gabriel Person and Sgt. Christine Wilson are the minorities among the 16 supervisors being recognized.