Alex Nieves Reyes: Being the Force for Change

Alex Nieves Reyes has been a police officer with the Madison Police Department for 12 years. She was born in Puerto Rico, and her family moved to New York City during her high school years. This was where her interactions with police officers who barely spoke Spanish inspired her to get into the career herself and be a role model for young girls like her. Working downtown Madison during the demonstrations challenged her, but ultimately made her more confident in her duty to her community.

As told to Katy Macek | Photography by Shalicia Johnson

As a minority woman, I understand what the anger is about, but I have the privilege of being a police officer. Out of uniform, I am another citizen, a minority, who feels maybe that the system is not fair.

However, [people] choose to show their outrage, this is how I’m showing mine. For me, it was seeing people like me in jobs like police [and] social work. For other people, it might be in politics.

The first day of the protests, it was my day off, but they called in everybody. It was very infuriating when [protesters kept] yelling at me and my coworkers who are white, calling us pigs, telling us we’re awful and we kill people.

It’s frustrating for me, as a person who has served in the military, being accused of being a racist without knowing what I’ve been through or experiences my coworkers have been through. They have done this job for all the right reasons.

I believe [the protesters] are right; the system has to change. Police departments across America — we are social workers. We are mental health liaisons. We wear so many hats because the government is defunding those systems that need to be in place.

It doesn’t make me question my job. This is not a job [where] people are going to like you; it’s like being a parent. Nobody likes that person that tells you that is wrong, but I love my job.

This is definitely [a job you do] because you care about the community. The hardest thing is to see so many awful things happening across the country, and so much hate and anger and frustration. But, you don’t quit when things are bad — this is when you need to make a stand.

This is my challenge, and I’ll take it.

Read more from our Solidarity in the City article here.

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