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June 7, 2012 Officer Lynda Hacker
Sixteen police officers graduate from intensive Spanish immersion Friday
Sixteen Kansas City Police officers will graduate from an intensive Spanish immersion program Friday and will be better equipped to communicate with Kansas City’s growing Hispanic population.
The graduation ceremony will be at 1 p.m. June 8 in the auditorium of the Kansas City Regional Police Academy, 6885 N.E. Pleasant Valley Road.
These 16 officers will join the 111 other KCPD officers who have graduated from the program since 2007. The course puts officers through the equivalent of four semesters of college-level Spanish in 10 weeks. But not all of it is classroom work. Officer Lynda Hacker, Spanish immersion program coordinator, said learning the Latino culture is just as important.
The course was housed this year at Trailwoods Elementary School, located at 17th and Belmont. About 85 percent of students who attend there are Hispanic. The officers in the program met with the children for an hour every day to practice their Spanish. Then the officers traded places and helped the students practice their English.
On their one-week spring break, the officers volunteered incognito at several Hispanic-centered organizations such as the Don Bosco Senior Center, Guadalupe Center, Westside CAN Center, Our Lady of Angels School and Our Lady of Guadalupe School. They were introduced to those at the organizations simply as community volunteers and worked for four days of the week under this presumption. On the fifth day, they showed up in uniform and revealed they were police officers. Hacker said the purpose of the under-cover volunteer efforts was to build trust between the Spanish-speaking community and police.
U.S. Census data shows that from 2000 to 2010, Kansas City gained 18,000 new residents. About 15,000 of them identified themselves as Hispanic.