Police Department’s Spanish program ready for 2011

The Berwyn Police Department’s partnership with Fenwick High School’s Spanish Club has found its focus. Over the last few months it was decided that it isn’t enough for officers to just learn the basics of a language, they must also understand how to use those words effectively.  What does a police officer need to know in Spanish and how would a person who only speaks Spanish like to be addressed?

The tentative curriculum contains verbs, terms and traffic safety. The words are applied to hypothetical situations in which an officer might find himself and how to effectively and fairly speak and react. Another focal point emphasizes the importance of closed-ended questions.

“What we’re trying to do with basic curriculum is make an officer feel comfortable when they go up to a scene.” Fitzgerald said, “Instead of open-ended questions like ‘How may I help you?’ an officer can say, ‘Hello, I’m Officer Fitzgerald. I don’t speak Spanish well, but I’m here to help you.’”

This allows an officer to assess the basics of the situation and call for a translator if necessary without losing information due to a language barrier. The Spanish program is slated to officially begin sometime between January or March of 2011. Though it is just the basics right now, Fitzgerald’s long term goal is to be able to speak fluently on a daily basis with more than half of the officers. He hopes that this can be accomplished within the next 10 years.

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