Suffolk PD looks to grow number of Spanish-speaking officers
The Suffolk County Police Department is trying to boost its Spanish-speaking members of the force.
There are currently 90 sworn members who are fluent in Spanish out of more than 2,300 sworn members.
The department has been working for over a decade to improve its diversity.
In 2008, the Suffolk Police Department was criticized for its lack of outreach in Hispanic communities before the beating death of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
The department then came under the review of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Acting Suffolk Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron says there are tablets in the majority of police cars that officers who do not speak Spanish can use to help them communicate.
“Every tablet is basically a large smartphone that can be used to make telephone calls,” Cameron says. “And, you know, one of the most useful purposes of that is to be able to call LanguageLine.”
He says that the department is allowed to give preferential hiring treatment to people who have a skill and Spanish-speaking is a valuable skill for police officers.
Detective Luis Cabrera is a part of the department and his bilingual skills helped police arrest a suspect who was allegedly picking up day laborers in Farmingville and attacking them in remote locations.
Cabrera says the victims only spoke Spanish.
“Typically in the Spanish communities, sometimes it’s a lot harder to be able to speak to someone that doesn’t speak your language,” he says.
The next civil service exam for the department will be in 2023, and 10% of all those in the class are required to be Spanish speakers.
When people take the exam to be a Suffolk police officer, they can check off whether or not they speak Spanish. At a later date, they will be given an oral exam to see how fluent they are.
The department also created a Facebook page where they post information and videos in Spanish.