Friday, May 13, 2011

Congratulations, KCPD Spanish Immersion graduates

Today, 12 officers graduated from our fifth annual Spanish Immersion program. They are pictured above with their professor, Lucia Villanueva. These officers were taken out of their assignments for 10 weeks to intensively study Spanish. They completed the equivalent of four college semesters of Spanish instruction in this time period. Five of them- those with the top GPAs - have been selected to go to Morelia, Mexico (which is in the state of Michoacan),  for five weeks to stay with host families and further their Spanish studies by taking two more semesters' worth of language and culture. Officers from past KCPD Spanish immersion programs have reported on their experiences there.

During this intensive 10-week course, these 12 officers got one week for spring break. But they didn't stop their studies. Instead, they went out into schools like Alta Vista Charter Middle School and organizations like the Don Bosco Senior Center as "community volunteers." They showed up in plain clothes Monday through Thursday, volunteering alongside the children and seniors, and didn't reveal they were police officers until the Friday of that week. Spanish Immersion program director Officer Lynda Hacker said many of the school children asked repeatedly, "You're really a policeman?" when they found out. We now have even stronger relationships with the future of this city - the children in those schools.

A total of 92 KCPD officers now have graduated from the Spanish Immersion program. Why have we spent the time and money to take these officers off the streets each year to teach them Spanish? The answer is simple: to communicate with those we serve. We are charged with protecting life and property and reducing fear and disorder for everyone who lives, works or plays in the 319 square miles that comprise Kansas City, Mo. In the last 15 years or so, we found we were unable to communicate with some of those we serve. Through this program, we can. We can build trust and learn who the bad guys are and get them off the streets.

Jacob Prada, who serves as the Mexican Consulate General in Kansas City, drove home during his speech at the graduation why this is becoming more important. He said the U.S. Census recorded an increase of 18,000 people to Kansas City's population from 2000 to 2010. Of those 18,000 new people here, 15,000 were Hispanic. That's 5 out of 6. It is incredibly important for the safey of everyone in Kansas City that we have conversations and relationships with these residents. Thanks to the 12 officers who graduated today and the 80 others who have gone before them, we can.

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