Louisiana Deputies Taking Spanish Lessons

MONROE, La.

A university language department chair is spending time teaching sheriff’s deputies Spanish so they can handle emergencies better when immigrants who speak little or no English are involved.

Ouachita Parish Sheriff Richard Fewell selected patrol deputies, radio operators, the K-9 Unit and several members of the Special Crime Apprehension Team to participate in a six-week Spanish class.

Ruth Smith, head of the foreign language department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, teaches the class to more than 20 sheriff’s employees. More than half had taken Spanish before, either at a collegiate level or in other police courses.

During the first class, Smith taught deputies simple phrases. The deputies were then paired into groups and spoke to each other and acted out emergency scenarios.

Chief Deputy Jay Russell said the sheriff’s office has seen a slight increase in calls from Hispanic residents over the past five years.

“We have had some over a three- to four-month period that made us realize we need a working knowledge of the language,” Russell said.

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