A Georgia police department has launched its first ever Hispanic citizen's police academy in hopes of fostering a better relationship between the community's rising immigrant population and area law enforcement.

The Duluth police department is now training a class of 30 students made up of area residents with the goal being to help locals overcome their growing fear and distrust of law enforcement, particularly when it comes to the issue of deportation.

Detective Heading Program is Former Puerto Rican Police Officer

"I've found that's the main concern, that's the main problem in the Hispanic community," said Detective Havier Bahamundi, who before joining the Duluth department in 2007 spent 17 years as an officer in Puerto Rico.

Over the last several decades, large swaths of Hispanic and Asian immigrants have settled into a 10-square-mile stretch of Duluth known as Pleasant Hill Road. As the immigrant population has grown, so too have the worries about authorities looking to deport as many unauthorized immigrants as they can.

Before Program Many Hispanics Steered Clear of Police

The end result is many Hispanics in the area now steer clear of police at all cost, even in situations when they themselves have been the victim of a crime.

In heading up the program, Bahamundi is hoping the outreach will began to chip away at the layers and layers of suspicions the two sides have long harbored for one another. Part of the message he insists officers want to drive home is that they are not immigrant agents interesting in jump-starting any deportation actions.

"It's amazing how the Hispanic community responded," he said. "I'm still receiving calls from the people who want to apply."

If the program ends as well as it started, the department might consider more courses, perhaps one for the Korean population, added a department spokesperson.

The tenements of the course stem from a similar program run by the nearby Norcross police department. The Duluth department put out word of its program on local Spanish speaking television and radio ads.