If you are a Law Enforcement Officer, almost anywhere in the United States, I'm sure you are aware of the number of people out there who do not speak English. It depends what area you are in of course, but many of the people you will, or are encountering are Spanish speakers. Obviously if you are a Police Officer assigned to Chinatown, the numbers are going to be a lot less. But for the most part, almost anywhere you go, you will encounter Spanish speakers. The Hispanic population is expected to double by the year 2018 and it is estimated that there are already 57 million people in the United States who speak Spanish.
Being able to communicate in Spanish can be very advantageous. In fact it can be very important to your
health. If you encounter a subject who is a gang member, sometimes part of the infamous MS-13 from Central America, knowing what that guy is saying could be a matter of life or death.
A friend of mine was a police officer in California. He was originally from Hawaii, and to my knowledge did not speak any Spanish. One night on patrol, he encountered a Latin gang member, who would not show his hands. When he ordered the gang member to show his hands, the gang member said, "No speak English", at which point my friend replied, using a visual aide, "Do you speak .357?"
The man shown his hands.
It certainly would have been to my friend's advantage if he had some command of the Spanish language. Things turned out okay, but knowing how to give basic commands, or ask basic questions can greatly lend to your effectiveness on the street. If you can ask witnesses for a description of the assailant, or a description of the car used in the drive-by, you will not only be a better police officer, but your community will also benefit.
On the monetary side of things, many departments now offer language pay, if you can demonstrate
proficiency in another language. With, or without language pay, I definitely recommend learning Spanish.
Finding the time is another story. Between long shifts, court testimony, maintaining physical fitness, and
family or social life, finding time to go to school is difficult to say the least.
Learning Spanish on line, or from a course purchased on line, should definitely be considered. It has many
advantages. You can study at your own pace, when you have time. You can use interactive programs on your computer or listen to CDs in your car, or download lessons to your MP3 player.
However you decide to do it, "get er done". It may save your or your partner's life.