Paco Balderrama was promoted to the rank of major in the Oklahoma City Police Department Tuesday.
He is the first officer from Hispanic culture to be promoted to the rank of major in the history of the Oklahoma City Police Department, formed in 1898.
Chief Bill Citty presented Balderrama with his new major’s insignia in a short ceremony at Police Headquarters.
“Philosophically, Paco is in line with that philosophy in law enforcement that I’m looking for,” Citty told Free Press after the ceremony. “He understands how important the community is and how important it is for that trust within the community.”
As a captain, he served as public information officer, or PIO, for the department.
Balderrama’s wife and family watched with big smiles as did his twin, OKCPD Captain Beto Balderrama and his family.
Also watching were a room full of fellow officers of all ranks from the department and several community leaders.
Over the 18 years Paco has been in the department he has earned respect from his fellow officers as he worked as Patrol Officer, Field Training Officer, and DARE Instructor.
He has held supervisory positions as Lieutenant over Bricktown Bike Patrol, the Truancy Unit and the FACT Gang Prevention Program.
Paco was also a member of the Oklahoma City Police Tactical Unit for three years and taught Self-Defense and Spanish to recruits in the Police Academy.
The brothers Balderrama got their first job connected with law enforcement when Oklahoma County Undersheriff Jerry Biggers hired them a little over 20 years ago.
And, Biggers was there to see the promotion Tuesday.
“Wouldn’t miss this,” he said with a slight smile.
He doesn’t seem like the smiling type, but he smiled when he remembered the 17-year-old Balderrama twins coming into his office and asking for a job at the jail.
He told them he couldn’t hire them until they turned 18, but to be sure and come back when they did.
Biggers had a good instinct for who would make it in a tough situation.
He had retired as Chief of the Highway Patrol after 25 years with that agency. Before that he had been in the Bethany Police Department.
“I met a lot of sharp young people along the way, but you and your brother take the top of the list,” Free Press overheard him saying to Paco before the ceremony.
And those young, impressive Hispanic teens did come back after another birthday.
“Literally, we graduated from high school on a Wednesday night and started working at the jail Thursday morning,” Paco said. “We stayed there for three years until we turned 21.”
It was then that they were accepted to the police academy together, an unusual thing for the time when siblings were sent through the academy in separate classes.
Balderrama said starting in the jail “helped me tremendously.”
“We were from a poor family, but a very good one,” he said. “I had never seen a drug until I worked at the jail.”
Free Press caught up with Chief Bill Citty after the ceremony and talked with him about the significance of the promotion.
Citty said Paco’s first job as major would be an administrative one working in the Operations Administration Bureau which consists of our Police Community Relations Unit, School Resource Officers, Truancy Program, the Police Athletic League, the Cadet Program, the Youth Outreach programs and the CIS Team.
“He understands how important the community is and how important it is for that trust within the community,” said Citty.
The Chief said Paco was a good fit for the position since that segment of the police department has so much contact with the public and youth.
“He’s fluent in Spanish, which is a skill we need for interacting with our public, and he’s not afraid to get in front of a camera,” Citty said.
Michael Brooks Jimenez, south-side attorney and candidate for the open seat in Oklahoma Senate District 44, said that Paco would be a good role model for Hispanic children.
“He’s a graduate of U.S. Grant High School on the south side. He’s lived his life the right way,” said Brooks Jimenez. “As a result, it’s great to see someone who’s worked so hard become so successful.”
Paco also seems to understand the power of the promotion for Hispanic youth.
“The power of visualizing your dreams is very, very important,” said Paco. “I think young Hispanic kids can look at people who are doing well in the community and in city government and it gives them that idea, hey, I can do it, too.”