The Boise Police Department is working to keep up with the fastest growing -and often most linguistically inflexible- demographic in Idaho, by teaching a ten-week Spanish course focused on conversation and policing.
Idaho’s Hispanic population has skyrocketed, rising around 3.4-3.6% annually between 2015-2017. Making up around 12.5% of the population, Hispanics are quickly becoming more commonplace in a predominantly white, Engilsh-speaking state.
Unfortunately, new demographic trends come with certain challenges. Studies done in recent years discovered that Spanish-speakers struggle to learn English more than many other foreign-language demographics.
According to NPR, a 2017 study of Philadelphia-area Latino children by the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium found that students who spoke Spanish as a first language were significantly less likely to reach proficiency than any other non-English-speaking group. In fact, Spanish speakers were almost half as likely as Chinese speakers to become proficient in English. The study is not unique; 12 other studies compiled in a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine revealed similar results.
With such a challenge in mind, and seemingly no end in sight to the demographic shift, Boise Police are looking to have a leg-up on the situation.
“It’s just another tool for us in our belt that we can use whenever we come up to an emergency situation,” said BPD Officer Ed Moreno said.
Boise Police Chief Bill Bones is looking to implement the Spanish-speaking element into the academy training pipeline as well.
“We are initiating mandatory training within our training academy for brand new officers, but everybody here is somebody who signed up because they wanted to learn,” Bones told KIVI. “The Latino population is the fastest growing population in the state.”
In addition to having a department that can communicate across a wider range of citizenry, the program will also give relief to beleaguered officers who currently speak Spanish, who are often pulled from their time off to translate for other officers.
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