Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Language barrier is law enforcement burden

"From street-level patrolmen to 911 operators, police say language barriers make it tough to do their jobs."

"Interactions with non-English speakers - Spanish-speakers chief among them - require more time and resources, overburden the force's few bilingual officers and, on occasion, lead to a lack of resolve on the part of police to enforce the law."

"Seventeen out of the about 1,300-member Metro police force speak some Spanish. Two speak Laotian; two speak German. One knows American Sign Language."

"[Police Chief] Serpas also is sending many of his officers to a weeklong, federally funded Spanish language-training course in May that most other departments across the state have taken."

"In the meantime, [Officer Chris] Benach, who plans to learn Spanish, says he and officers like him will keep trying their best.

"'Because they don't speak English and you don't speak their language, it doesn't matter,' he said. 'You've just got to do your job.'"

The Tennessean

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