Police Learn Spanish as Latino Population Grows

(KATV) The Hispanic populationwas almost non-existent only two decades ago but the quick growth in Spanish-speakingimmigrants has placed new concerns for first responders because of a languageand culture barrier.

Arkansas has a small Hispanic/Latinopopulation, at just 6.4, but in the past decade the state has remained in thetop five for the largest percentage of growth.

Sgt. Brian Dedrick withthe North Little Rock Police Department says, "We have a lot more Spanishspeaking individuals in our community. So we have had to do some things toadapt to it. Those things include, we offer officers the opportunity to take first responder Spanish classes, they have sheets with words translated in Spanish, they can take a laptop home with Rosetta Stone on it and they can register for College Spanish classes."

Members of the NorthLittle Rock Police Department are taking conversational Spanish to bridge thelanguage barrier gap. The goal isn't to become bilingual but to learn words tobe able to understand one another until an interpreter or bilingual firstresponder arrives. "It's challenging because we want to be able to understandand find out what the needs are," Sgt. Dedrick adds.

After all the talk aboutthe English only movement, Sgt. Dedrick says the fact remains that firstresponder services need to be provided to all in need.

In today's society, thereis a mixture of Hispanic culture and the traditions usually migrate with eachgroup, everyone here with the hope of a brighter future.

Maura Lozano-Yancy says, "Theycome like any other migrant population has come in the years before; it is forbetter opportunities, mostly because of their children."

Lozano-Yancy started the SecondLanguage Institute in 2010. She says, "We have trained officers for the city ofMaumelle, Little Rock, North Little Rock, several of the court systems havecome through the classes specialized in law enforcement and firstresponders."

According to the U.S. Census,Hispanics in the state are young, more than 40% are under 18 years old, andthey speak English. Lozano-Yancy says it's the adults who move to the U.S. whohave trouble learning a new language.

Leonor Garcia is themother of Patricia Guardado, the UALR student who was murdered one year ago. Garciasays she struggles to speak with officers, and it's agonizing to wait for aninterpreter to give her an update on Patricia's murder case that has growncold, there have been no arrests.

Garcia says she sometimeshas her kids translate and she appreciates that officers are getting involvedin the community and learning key words in Spanish.

Some businesses offer abonus for bilingual employees, but most police department's pay based on testscores and the education level completed.