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National Stuttering Association

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Leonardo SotoDetective / Hostage Negotiator

    Leonardo Soto

    New Haven, CT
    Detective / Hostage Negotiator
    New Haven Police Department


    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I’m a detective with the Special Victims Unit (SVU). I specialize in investigating crimes involving human trafficking and child exploitation. I am also part of the Emergency Services Unit as a hostage / crisis negotiator.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    As a detective, you have to gain the victim’s trust and make them comfortable. As a person who stutters, it is often a challenge because people may not see you as competent because of the stuttering. It’s the same when speaking to a suspect as well. As a hostage negotiator, you have to speak with people during what can possibly be the worst moment in their lives. I have had successful negotiations during my career, but my stuttering was often questioned during the negotiation process.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    Eventually, I would like to take the next promotional test and become the unit commander for the special victims unit.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Before I was a police officer, I was a paramedic for many years, I never actually disclosed my stuttering during a hiring process. The first time I ever disclosed that I actively stuttered was when I went to Hostage negotiator school. Part of the process was to speak in front of the class about yourself and that was the first thing I disclosed. Since then, wherever I go or whatever I do if I have to speak to someone I will disclose. I also started disclosing that I stutter when I have to negotiate with someone.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Working in the law enforcement field for the last 15 years, I have had many proud moments. One of the proudest was when I graduated from the police academy. There were many doubts that I would even make it through the academy due to my stuttering, but with hard work and determination, I made it through and I’ve had a very successful career.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    I think when people who are not law-enforcement hear that you as an officer stutter, they don’t just see the officer, but they tend to see the human being.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    Never limit yourself. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t follow a dream or pursue a goal just because you stutter. Put it out there. Let everyone know that you stutter and you are confident within yourself. When people see your confidence, they will be confident in you as well.

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