San Jose Police Department

San Jose Police Aim to Bridge Diversity Divide With Officers Who Can Speak 16 Languages

NBC Universal, Inc.

One of the many police reforms that communities are demanding is officers who better reflect the neighborhoods they serve.

The city of San Jose plans to help make that happen by having its next batch of potential officers speak 16 different languages.

"There are over 100 languages spoken by San Jose residents, so the more we can hire officers that speak the language of our community, the better we'll be able to engage with them and provide the services that they need," SJPD Assistant Chief Paul Joseph said.

Leaders at the Sikh Gurdwara applaud the news and said it is important that the police department accurately represent them.

"It's a kind of respect for the community," Sikh Gurdwara Vice President Dr. Gurinder Bal Singh said. "I think it's in line with Sikh values when we consider everybody equal and everybody should have the same rights."

Singh is a different leader at the Sikh Gurdwara and he said he appreciates the latest batch of San Jose police cadets speaking 16 different languages, including Punjabi.

"There are many elderly who don't speak English, so for them particularly having a police officer understand or answer their questions in Punjabi - it is very, very important," Singh said.

A San Jose police promotional video was recently sent out to the community in six languages inviting residents to ask questions of the department in their own language.

Tanya Hernandez is one of the bilingual officers at SJPD. She said being able to communicate directly in a native language leads to better crime fighting and problem solving.

"I immediately feel like this relief, like 'You speak Spanish too?' So they feel more comfortable," Hernandez said.

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