WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Arkansas has its very first Marshallese citizen to become a law enforcement officer, and he works in Washington County.

“There’s only one first,” said Chief Deputy Jay Cantrell with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a nice feeling, being the first,” said Corporal Joel Minor.

Cpl. Minor was prepared to wait months, to maybe even years, to reach his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer.

“I’m from the Marshall Islands,” he said. “I came here when I was probably about four or five.”

His family moved to Springdale. The Har-Ber High School graduate has been working in the Washington County Detention Center for six years, but he has bigger goals.

“It was a Springdale officer who came to our school in third or fourth grade,” he said. “He’s the one that always told me there was never any Marshallese people in this line of work.”

It was that officer who inspired him to change that, but there was a big rule standing in the way.

“To work in the jail, you just have to have a work visa or your green card and you can work in corrections,” explained Chief Deputy Cantrell. “But to be a certified law enforcement officer in Arkansas, you have to be a U.S. citizen.”

Thanks to a recent rule change from the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, Marshallese citizens can become law enforcement officers without renouncing that citizenship.

“It’s important for us that this rule change was made because it allows us to now to recruit some of our Marshallese community,” he said. “The police are the people and the people are the police and we want to match what we serve.”

Chief Deputy Cantrell said they are still understaffed at the sheriff’s office, saying they still need to fill about 43 positions.

“We’re struggling to find good quality people to fill those positions,” he said.

He said they have started to see an uptick in applications since the department got the approval for a hiring bonus and referral bonus.

At WCSO, they like to start people out in the jail and work them up through the ranks if they want, which is exactly what Cpl. Minor has done.

He graduated from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in April, making him the first Marshallese citizen to become a law enforcement officer in Arkansas.

“I want to serve my community and help out the Marshallese people that don’t know how to speak English very well,” he said. “So hopefully, we can break the barrier between law enforcement and the Marshallese community.”

“He’s got that heart for service,” said Chief Deputy Cantrell. “He wants to serve his community, and he wants to try to make things better.”

Cpl. Minor still has a few final hoops to jump through within the department before he’s out patrolling.