Bi-lingual cops in Tift County essential to investigations - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Bi-lingual cops in Tift County essential to investigations

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September 24, 2007

Tifton -- Mother of three Christian Rodriguez speaks both English and Spanish. And she knows the difficulties non-English speaking Hispanics face in emergencies.

She asked, "If an English speaking officer goes out there to someone speaking Spanish and there's no communication, how are they going to know what happened or anything?"

That's why the Tift County Sheriff's Office and the Tifton Police Department have Spanish-speaking officers on staff. They are essential during criminal investigations.

"We had one Hispanic male, who to this point has not been positively identified, that died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest. The investigation is being conducted jointly with the sheriff's office and the GBI," said Maj. Jason Jones.

Jones, a deputy with the Tift County Sheriff's Office, is referring to the Friday night shooting death of a Hispanic man. While investigators have charged his roommate, 43-year-old Justino Pedro Euaristo with killing him, they're still not sure of the dead man's identity.

The murder took place at Young's Trailer Park on Whiddon Mill Road. A large number of  people who live at this location are Hispanic. Cases like Friday night's homicide often require Spanish speaking officers at the scene.

"We have several bi-lingual officers, officers that speak both English and Spanish. We have them in several different divisions of the sheriff's office. They're in our patrol division as well as in the jail," said Jones.

The latest census reports in 2005 shows that Hispanic or Latinos of any race make up 10.1% of Tift County's Population, a figure that is up from 7.7% in 2000, and 3% above the state average.

"Sometimes Hispanic people feel safer when it's someone that speaks their own language," said Rodriguez.

And as the Hispanic population continues to grow, so will the need for officers who can communicate with them.

The Tift County Sheriff's Office says that if there is no officer available to speak Spanish when needed, they will call in assistance from the Tifton Police Department, who also have officers that speak Spanish.

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