South Georgia needs bilingual officers - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia needs bilingual officers

February 16, 2007

Tifton - As one of two Spanish speaking officers at the Tifton Police Department...Freddy Amaya learned his services could be life saving.

And he learned it while responding to one of his first calls.  "There's this big tall grass, taller then me about 10 feet tall.  And I'm just walking and I stepped on something.  And I backed up and whoever it was popped out," Freddy says.

Things quickly escalated.  "My training officer was saying, let me see your hands, what you got in your hands?  Get up!  Get on the floor and don't move."

With guns drawn, the man was about to start running, when Freddy realized he spoke Spanish and started shouting commands.  "Then he paid attention.  He understood what I was telling him and instead of running, he laid on the floor and we arrested him," Freddy adds.

His brother, the second bilingual officer at TPD has had many similar situations and realizes what an asset they are to the department.  "It's like having two officers because you are speaking Spanish and then you're speaking English," says Blamori Amaya.

And Chief James Smith is happy to have their assistance.

He says with the Hispanic population growing, the lack of bilingual officers in South Georgia is a problem.

One he's trying to fix by recruiting officers from local schools like ABAC.  "wWe go to the different job fairs, schools, we talk to the Hispanic population, the students at the high school and we try to encourage people to choose law enforcement as a career," Chief Smith says.

He hopes to soon recruit more bilingual officers in areas of need.  "Tifton's not only Hispanic, we are starting to get Cambodians, people from China and from the Bahamas," he adds.

And let the community know, if they need assistance, no matter what language they speak, the police can help.

The Moultrie Police Department also is recruiting from local college and offer incentives for bilingual officers who join the department.  In Berrien County, the Sheriff is sending several deputies to Spanish Classes.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=BilingualOfficers

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