Lebanon Police Chief: Language Barrier Could Cause Danger

Kristin Nelson, KY3 News (Springfield, Missouri), May 5, 2009

The city police department is having a problem communicating with its growing Hispanic population. Officers say the language barrier could lead to a dangerous situation with suspects and victims.

In those situations, officers sometimes have to wait for an interpreter to meet them. Not only is it costly but it’s also time consuming.

Officer Ralph Robinson’s limited Spanish sometimes creates confusion and frustration when he’s on patrol.

“You run into obstacles–them not understanding you, trying to communicate with them, with just basic, average things: license, insurance, things like that,” said Robinson.

Lebanon’s police chief says the city’s Hispanic population is growing. Out of the 16,000 people who live in the city, there are 338 Spanish-speaking families, but those are just the ones that police know about. With three major highways Lebanon gets a lot of traffic.

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So the police department is paying for three officers, including Robinson, to learn Spanish to try to eliminate problems and to better serve and protect the city.

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Officers will travel to Kansas to learn basic Spanish during the middle of this month and travel to Iowa for advanced Spanish in early June.

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