Police go back to school for Spanish - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Police go back to school for Spanish

September 8, 2006

Albany -- Albany Police go back to school to learn Spanish. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the nation, and many hispanics in this country don't speak English well. That poses a problem for law enforcers.

The US census shows there are more Hispanic people in Dougherty County than ever before. Many are non-english speakers and that causes a communication barrier between law enforcement and citizens they're trying to help.

Only one APD officer on the force is fluent in Spanish, and now more officers are taking the initiative to learn.

You don't learn this in police academy. Law enforcers like Sgt. Joe Moored are learning just how important it is to be bilingual.

"It will enhance our relationship, it will develop trust, and it will also help us to get the details about issues and crimes that are going on in certain neighborhoods," said Sgt. Joe Moored of APD.

Those neighborhoods are ones that are predominantly Hispanic, and people there can only speak Spanish.

In Spanish: "My name is George Lopez and I work for Albany Police Department," said Corp. George Lopez of APD.

Corporal George Lopez is of Latino decent. He says he often feels stretched thin because he's the only APD officer who can speak Spanish fluently, so he's called out a lot.

"Sometimes I'll go to a car accident where they got people invovled in an accident, nobody can speak English, and I'm the only one who can be of assisstance in that situation," said Corporal George Lopez of APD.

Aside from police work he also helps out in court, local hospitals, with county police and the Sheriff's Office as a translator.

Instructor Elizabeth Parr says that proves why it's so important to learn Spanish. The full-time school teacher volunteers her time once a week to teach the officers.

"If you are in an emergency situation and there is no the person speaks Spanish, and there's no one there to communicate with them, it can really be bad," said Spanish teacher Elizabeth Parr.

That situation is one Sgt. Joe Moored knows firsthand from several incidents with Spanish speakers.

"We need to ascertain if anybody's injured, a lot of time there's children involved, and we can't communicate at all," said Sgt. Moored.

He hopes other officers will also take note of the growing importance of learning Spanish.

The classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at six pm at APD Station One on Dawson Road, and they are free.

They've invited people in law enforcement, public service, and anyone else in the community to come out and learn Spanish.

Police are always looking for volunteer interpreters for all languages, especially those who can translate Spanish. Anyone interested can call the police department at 431-2100.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=SpanishClass/NJ


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