Friday, March 12, 2010

KCPD Spanish students volunteer under-cover


On their spring break from a 10-week Spanish Immersion program, 19 Kansas City police officers are clandestinely volunteering in schools and community centers with large Spanish-speaking populations this week.

This is the fourth year of KCPD’s Spanish Immersion program – a course that puts about 20 officers through the equivalent of four semesters of college-level Spanish in 10 weeks. The course is housed at Swinney Elementary School, 1106 W. 47th St. The class is intended to equip police with the ability to communicate with Kansas City’s ever-growing Spanish-speaking population. At the conclusion of the course, the top five officers in the class will be selected to continue their immersion in Morelia, Mexico, for five weeks.

This week, March 8-12, is spring break for officers in the course, but instead of relaxing, they have chosen to volunteer at Kansas City schools and community centers with high Spanish-speaking populations. However, the students and many of the community members they’re volunteering with don’t know they are police officers. They have been introduced simply as community volunteers who are learning to speak Spanish. Today, March 12, the officers will show up at their volunteer sites in uniform and reveal their true identity.

Officer Lynda Hacker, Spanish Immersion program coordinator, said the purpose of the under-cover volunteering is to build trust between the Spanish-speaking community and police.

“When we did this last year, one little boy said he never liked police before, but he does now,” Officer Hacker said.

At schools, the officers are assigned to one classroom and will stay with that same class the entire week and assist with everything from reading to recess. They’ll also be practicing their Spanish. At community centers, they’ll volunteer wherever there is need. The volunteer sites include:

Garcia Elementary School – 1000 W. 17th St.
Our Lady of Angels School – 4232 Mercier St.
St. Stephen’s Academy – 1001 Bennington Ave.
Our Lady of Guadalupe School – 2310 Madison Ave.
Alta Vista Charter High School – 1722 Holly St.
Don Bosco Senior Center – 580 Campbell St.
Guadalupe Centers, Inc. – 1015 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez