More Cops, Firefighters Forced to Learn Spanish to Keep Jobs

gwhunter69

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More Cops, Firefighters Forced to Learn Spanish to Keep Jobs
By Michael L. Betsch
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
July 10, 2002

(CNSNews.com) - Police officers and firefighters, sworn to serve and protect, sometimes find it difficult to communicate with the Spanish-speaking victims they're trying to rescue. But the growing demand for emergency responders to communicate in Spanish is "political correctness run amok," according to some conservatives.

"If a fireman or a policeman or someone happens to speak the language and can help someone, more power to them," said Jim Boulet, Jr., the executive director of English First, an organization dedicated to making English the official language of the U.S.

"But [speaking Spanish] is a courtesy, it's not a legally enforceable right," Boulet said.

However, according to Dr. Sam Slick, president and CEO of Command Spanish, Inc., "the country's largest provider of occupational Spanish training," teaching emergency responders to communicate in Spanish fills a "very important need."

According to Slick, the United States has millions of either Spanish-only speakers or those that are "limited English proficient," which he defined as "primarily Spanish speakers with a very small amount of English."

"How do you attend to those needs in any kind of conceivable way?" Slick asked.

Command Spanish offers clients, including "many local, state, federal and private agencies" a curriculum that is "workplace specific," Slick said.

"We teach firefighters how to control fires and crowds and save people's lives at a fire scene, but we don't teach them fruits and vegetables," Slick said. "We don't teach them how to arrest people, because firemen don't arrest people. We teach them only what they need to know."

In some cases, Slick said it's mandatory for emergency responders to learn Spanish.

For example, Slick said, the State of Texas mandates that its police officers learn to communicate in Spanish as a requirement for their intermediate police certification. Command Spanish offers customized Spanish courses to both the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Probation Academy for an undisclosed fee.

"It generates an awful lot of money," Slick said of Command Spanish's local, state and federal government contracts.

When asked just how much money Command Spanish earns from its government-funded contracts, Slick said "those records are closed," assuring CNSNews.com that "It's a very lucrative business."

"Some of the money being spent for all of this mandatory translation would buy a ton of English classes," English First's Boulet said. "The government is sending the message, 'If you come to America, don't bother to learn the language. We'll tell you everything you need to know.'"

Russ Bergeron, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, explained that there is "no law which requires an individual -- even if they do acquire a functional ability to read, write and speak the English language -- there's no law that requires them to use English.

"In terms of our people having to have an ability to speak Spanish, I think the need for that is obvious," Bergeron said. "If you can't speak their language, then obviously it becomes very problematic from a law enforcement standpoint."

Roy Beck, the executive director of Numbers USA, a public policy group in Washington that studies the annual numbers of legal and illegal immigration, wants to know why only the Spanish-speaking immigrants get this "extra consideration" from the police and firefighters.

"In every city, there are dozens of immigrant languages being spoken. In some cities we're talking about 120-140 languages," Beck said. "All these other people are being really ripped-off."

Tim Richardson, a senior legislative liaison with the National Fraternal Order of Police, said the current preference for Spanish stems from the fact that it's the second most spoken language in the United States.

"In general, I think [learning Spanish] is going to make the officer a more valuable person to his community, so it's a good thing," Richardson said.

But Richardson said local and city police departments should be cautious when considering mandatory Spanish courses, especially if the order is coming down from the federal level.

Richardson has no objection to such a mandate if "it's a decision reached by the state and funded and the officer is not forced to buy his own Spanish lessons."

"You're, in a sense, arming that officer with that tool," Richardson said of teaching police officers Spanish.

Richardson said police departments should first determine their personnel and equipment needs before spending money to train several or all officers in a second language.

"I think it's probably, in many cases, unrealistic to expect every officer to be bilingual," Richardson said.
 

Maverick

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My fire station is in a very poor hispanic/balck community. 70% of the people are Hispanic and don't speak very much English. Most of the time there is someone there that speaks English or some English. But there is in no way that I will learn any language other then English. You'd be surprised how good there English is when there in need of help.
 

Pasco

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Hey, watch this...

"Dos cervesas, por favor."

See, if I can learn Spanish why can't everyone.

We should all learn ebonics and surfer-dude speak while we're at it.

And we should all write our legislators to have them add taxes to teach all public servants a couple foreign languages.
 

MBullism

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When we're through making everyone speak spanish, we can do away with the dollar and adopt the peso.
 

EVAN III

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  What a joke. When are they gonna make the spanish speaking people learn english. I refuse to be forced to learn another language, last I cheacked we lived in America, and Americans speak english. Don't get me wrong, being bilingual (spelling) isn't a bad thing, as long as one of the languages is english.

                         EVAN III
 

JBarn3

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Last time I was up in the Bridgeport area, I saw a great sweatshirt on a guy in the general store at Lower Twin Lake.

it said something like this:

Welcome to America, NOW SPEAK ENGLISH DAMNIT !!!
 

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