BOISE, IDAHO — The first group of 50 or so Boise Police Officers completed the very first ten-week Spanish course offered by the department Monday. The curriculum is focused on conversational Spanish, but also went into legal terms for officers.
Idaho’s Hispanic population is on the rise, according to census information. The U.S. Census Bureau says the state’s Hispanic population grew 3.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, up from a 3.4 percent increase the previous year. Overall, 215,392 Hispanics live in Idaho--accounting for 12.5 percent of the state’s population.
And like any Spanish learning class, this one began with a 'bienvenidos.'
"Gracias por atender. Atendemos," said Chief Bill Bones, Boise Police Department (BPD).
But this is not like most classes, as these students are sworn staff and officers of the Boise Police Department.
"Soy de sargento y en Boise Police Department," said Sgt. Sara Hill, Boise Police Department.
And they're learning Spanish with a shared cause in mind: mainly, to assist Spanish-speaking victims of local emergencies.
"It's just another tool for us in our belt that we can use whenever we come up to an emergency situation," said Officer Ed Moreno, Boise Police Department.
"Do some simple things like ask where they live, ask victims what they need, how can I help them, who's the person that called 911-- those things are really important and I definitely got that from this class," said Hill.
The department had a "BPD Spanish Class Wrap-up" fiesta Monday, where several members of the Hispanic community attended, including Lisa E. Sanchez, Council member of Boise City, and others to interact with the students and enjoy a dinner of Tangos Empanadas.
"We are initiating mandatory training within our training academy for brand new officers, but everybody here is somebody who signed up because they wanted to learn," said Bones. "The Latino population is the fastest growing population in the state."
And with more department staff able to communicate with Spanish speakers, their goal is that the ones that already know Spanish won't be relied upon on during their off-times to report to crime scenes.
"For me, it'll be somewhat of a relief," said Moreno. "It'll cut down on some of the costs of having me show up and interpret."
Officer Moreno says the Twin Falls Police Department has picked up this program and will be following in BPD's footsteps. City council member Lisa E. Sanchez was one of several community members in attendance to talk in Spanish with students.
"I just want to thank you on behalf of the people of Boise, that you're willing to do this so that you can better serve our community," said Sanchez.