Friday, February 20, 2004

Nashville police force tries to bridge language and culture gaps, needs more Spanish-speaking officers

"Metro officers say it's in their interest to have a better relationship with all people who speak limited English, including those in the Hispanic community."

"'You've got to meet people halfway,' said E.T. Davenport, a patrol officer in his third decade on the force. 'People can be fearful of the police,' especially those from countries where the police routinely abuse power, he said. 'When you get fearful, certain things kick in. You may not cooperate. That makes the situation harder.'"

"'A lot of times, what we do as police officers depends on what we can mediate. If you can mediate, you can reach some resolution, whether it's issuing a citation or something else. But you've got to be able to communicate.'"

"Meanwhile, police said they have been working to meet the challenges of providing safety and security to a community that now includes dozens of languages, Spanish chief among them."

"The Police Department has translated materials into Spanish and puts officers through Spanish language training."

"Those efforts are helpful, but what the force really needs most are more Spanish-speaking officers, Ulysses Hernandez said. He is among a handful of Metro officers who are native Spanish speakers and who are called on to translate for other officers."

The Tennessean

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