WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – There's a larger need for Spanish speaking officers and 911 dispatchers during emergencies with the growing population of Spanish speaking citizens in our area.
We're learning more about the events that unfolded after a shooting earlier this week near a high school in Wilmington. One of the 911 callers spoke Spanish, but there were no Spanish speaking officers or dispatchers available to translate to get the vital information.
Linda Rawley, with the Wilmington Police Department, said they have several officers who serve as Spanish speaking interpreters. When those officers can't respond, police and 911 dispatchers bring in a third party.
The New Hanover County 911 Center uses a service called Language Line. It's a 24 hour, 7 day a week program that allows officers or dispatchers to communicate with a victim, witness, or even a suspect who doesn't speak English.
When a dispatcher receives a call for help from someone who doesn't speak English, they contact Language Line and set up a three way call for translation.
Rawley says this type of service improves communication between law enforcement and the citizens.
"It is very important for people to be able to communicate with us in any situation," Rawley said. "It is something that we make sure to try to stay on top of. The Language Line is a great resource for us, so if we're not able to get in there in person, we're able to have this service as a back up."
Lovey McLaughlin, with the New Hanover County 911 Center, estimates they use the service approximately 30 times every day. With the local Hispanic population growing, McLaughlin says they could use more Spanish speaking dispatchers.
"It would help. Right now Language Line is a great service," McLaughlin said. "But I think having Spanish speaking telecommunicators would cut out the middle man."
Currently there are no Spanish speaking training courses offered by the Wilmington Police Department. The department is not required to provide that training.
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