The NYPD seems to have some trouble with Spanish speaking people. Just a few days after nine Hispanic officers were issued memos for chatting in Spanish amongst themselves and violating the department’s unofficial English-only policy, their intolerance with Spanish speakers has made it to the press again.
image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Five Latina women in New York City filed a lawsuit last week against the New York Police Department, the City of New York, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for failing to provide Spanish interpreters during separate house calls over the past two years.
One of the complainants, who is a victim of domestic abuse, said that, despite the fact that she asked for someone who spoke Spanish when she called 911, only English-speaking police officers were sent to her house. She adds that, to make things worse, they arrested her instead of the attacker and ridiculed her just because she was not fluent in English.
The reaction of the NYPD so far is disappointing, to say the least. Even though Paul Browne, its chief spokesperson, dismissed the lawsuit alleging that the department has an efficient language service as well as the largest number of foreign-language officers in the country, who many a time act as translators or interpreters during house calls, the truth is that the force reprimands its officers for not speaking English during the working hours.
That double message is contradictory and confusing. The NYPD embraces foreign officials and encourages them to put their language knowledge to the service of troubled citizens but then fails to send them to help out in situations where they are really needed or files memos against those same cops for using their mother tongue during working hours.
It is perfectly understandable the need to ensure the use of English as the only spoken language in certain situations. For instance, when officers from different ethnic backgrounds are together, when they are discussing safety instructions or procedures or when they are looking into a case. However, in every other situation, officers should be allowed to use the language they are more comfortable with. The United States is a multicultural and multilingual country and its police force should reflect that fact.