Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Anti-corruption message is one part of award-winning bilingual police outreach to Spanish-speaking residents

Chief Ronal Serpas: "Our police department views the El Protector Program as a critical service"

On February 27, NewsChannel5 reported here that the Metro Nashville Police Department has won national recognition for its El Protector program, which engages the Hispanic/Latino community with communications in both English and Spanish. The Vera Institute of Justice recently recognized the Nashville program in this report of "best practices" by law enforcement officers addressing language-related challenges.

On the same day of that local story, NewsChannel5 also reported here that Vanderbilt students are canceling spring break trips to Monterrey, Mexico due to violence there. A Reuters report describing the Monterrey incidents mentioned by the Vanderbilt students is here. The report says that "[a]bout 300 protesters carried signs complaining about army operations in the northern city of Monterrey," and indicates that the protests were funded by drug cartels. It further says that "the army is disrupting drug gang operations, but is failing to cleanse Mexico's corrupt police forces that are working for the cartels."

The corruption of police in some Latin American countries is one reason for Nashville's El Protector program, according to one of the local officers interviewed by NewsChannel5. In the video accompanying the story, Officer Gilbert Ramirez said that one of the goals of the program is to communicate to natives of Spanish-speaking countries who are living in Nashville that they can trust the police here. The program's ability to effectively communicate by bridging language barriers is part of the reason it won recognition by the Vera Institute.

“Our police department views the El Protector Program as a critical service that reaches out to a segment of our community who may not be familiar with American, and particularly Nashville, law enforcement practices,” Chief Ronal Serpas said in a press release. “I am grateful that the Vera Institute of Justice believes that our program is one that can be considered for replication by other law enforcement agencies in the United States.”

Officer Rafael Fernandez and Officer Gilbert Ramirez are the current face of El Protector. Both appear on the program's bilingual home page on the MNPD web site.

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