A group of Salt Lake area law enforcement officers has organized a Utah chapter of the Latino Peace Officers Association.

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Mike Fierro and Officer Phil Kirk attended the association's national convention last month in California and were given unanimous support to start a Utah chapter."I've wanted an organization like this here for a long time," said Fierro, who has been appointed interim president of the local 20-member chapter. "I've always felt that a state program could be very useful."

The association is strongest in California but has chapters in Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico and now Utah.

The group has four basic objectives: assist law agencies in recruiting and advancing Hispanic officers; expose Hispanic youths to career opportunities in the criminal-justice system; provide scholarships for Hispanic youths interested in police careers; and serve as a liaison between the Hispanic community and law enforcement.

Fierro stressed that it is not the association's intent to be militant or to make demands. "We are not going to be like a union. We are going to stay away from that."

But promoting the hiring of more Hispanic members is foremost on the group's agenda. "We Hispanic officers feel there is a great need for more Hispanic officers," Fierro said.

Membership in the Utah chapter of the association is open to all Utah law enforcement officers - state and federal - who share the group's goals and concerns. Fierro hopes the chapter will eventually have up to 200 members along the Wasatch Front.

For more information, contact Fierro at 799-3104 or Kirk at 799-3306, or write to them in care of the Salt Lake Police Department, 315 E. Second South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.