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Cincinnati police officers learning Spanish to adapt to changing community

Cincinnati police
Posted at 4:29 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 16:29:36-05

CINCINNATI — To help deal with a growing immigrant population, some Cincinnati police officers are taking classes to learn another language.

Officers like Detective Andrea Taylor with the Homicide Unit are learning Spanish to adapt to the changing community.

"When you're in a service-oriented job, if you can't understand, you can't help," Taylor said. "And if they can't understand you, you can't help them."

There is a growing Hispanic/Latino community in the area. Most of them are from Guatemala.

"We've seen an increase of immigrants coming into the U.S., also immigrants settling in Cincinnati," said Edwin Ortiz Reyez, the lead bilingual case worker for Su Casa.

Su Casa is bringing Spanish-speaking volunteers to the Cincinnati Police Academy so the officers can learn one-on-one.

Ortiz Reyez said more Spanish-speaking people have been coming to Cincinnati because they already have family or other connections to the area.

"The Hispanic immigration community tends to be targeted more often than not simply because its more difficult for them — because of fear or lack of language services — to report crimes," he said.

More than a dozen officers, including Taylor, have signed up so far. They are ready to learn their Miranda Rights and other phrases in Spanish.

"What if they just defended themselves and they have a gun on them, and we don't understand? And they pull their gun? That could end up really bad," Taylor said.

Police said every second can matter, and having a language barrier can add too much time to a response, according to Anthony Johnson, an immigration liaison officer for the City of Cincinnati.

"We worry about seconds, so the most important thing is to deal with the information as soon as possible so we can get it out to everybody and know what we have to do to make the scene safe," he said.