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Speaking your language

Post Date:04/04/2019 9:00 am

Como puedo ayudarte? Могу я чем-нибудь помочь? Womit kann ich Ihnen behilflich sein? 

Police departments around the country talk a lot about seeking diverse police officers. But diversity isn’t always about skin color. It’s also about having staff with a variety of backgrounds, skills and experiences.

In recent years, the Shakopee Police Department has grown its diversity by hiring staff with fluency in multiple languages. Among the languages spoken by department staff are English, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and sign language.

For many people, their interaction with the police department often comes during a stressful situation, such as a traffic accident or as a victim of a crime. A language barrier can add extra stress and confusion.

“Having staff who can speak to a victim in their native language makes a huge difference in the victim's experience with police and our ability to handle the situation,” Police Chief Jeff Tate said.

To attract candidates, the department offers a financial incentive to officers with fluency in another language. The department also contracts an interpretive language phone line to give officers in the field and staff at the station access to more language services. 

“Being able to communicate in the languages our community speaks is important to us because we know there’s nothing more reassuring than feeling like you are heard and understood," Tate said.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 Hometown Messenger.

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