INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — When Sheriff Kerry Forestal took office in January, one of the areas he wanted to improve is the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s connection to the Spanish-speaking community.
According to the sheriff’s 100 days report, the department’s administrative division established a working relationship with the Mexican Consulate. Forestal said the Consulate helps by translating documents for the sheriff’s office. The Consulate also said they will help the department recruit officers from minority groups.
This is something Indianapolis resident Carolina Figueroa hopes to see. She told CBS4 she is encouraged by the sheriff’s desire to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“For a sheriff, being willing to reach out and say, ‘Hey I want to help the Latino community, I want there to be help in Spanish,’ that’s amazing,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa has lived in the United States nearly all her life. She remembers helping her parents understand English. She said it can feel lonely when you hear people talking around you and you do not understand what they are saying. She also reminds everyone it can be dangerous.
“Let’s just put ourselves in those shoes for a minute,” Figueroa said. “We call 911 because somebody broke into our house. How do you get that across, especially on the phone, when you can’t use hand gestures? How do you get that across to the person who is supposed to come right away for help?”
Sheriff Forestal said he shares the concerns communicated by Figueroa. Forestal said that is why it is beneficial to have deputies who speak several languages.
“I mean every time that’s an advantage for us,” Forestal said. “For people walking in off the street and have a question, same thing with the dispatchers, we don’t know who’s going to be at the other end of that phone. We need to have somebody that can speak that language.”
Figueroa said she knows several people living near her who are undocumented. She said there is intense fear among those who are undocumented to reach out to first responders when they are experiencing an emergency because they are afraid of what could happen.
“That’s kind of where we just don’t want anything to do with it and you live in the shadows,” Figueroa explained. “Living in the shadows means you’re not calling out for help.”
Forestal said he hopes the commitment to reaching out to the Spanish-speaking communities will foster better relationships for everyone.