THOUSAND OAKS – A program designed to help Ventura County sheriff’s deputies in emergency situations communicate with non-English speakers has inspired two pocket-sized Spanish handbooks for firefighters and police. In a county with a rapidly growing Spanish-speaking population, the Sheriff’s Department has been helping bridge the communication gap between Hispanics and law enforcement for nearly a decade. Thanks to a Spanish course, which began in 1996 and is taught by David Dees, hundreds of deputies have learned the second language. “It’s a humbling experience,” Dees said. “Like everything in life, it’s my contribution. It makes me feel good because what I’m doing is saving lives.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson The success of the department’s Spanish for Law Enforcement program inspired two books entitled “Quick Spanish for Law Enforcement,” and “Quick Spanish for Emergency Responders.” About 5,000 books were published recently, and use materials developed with the Sheriff’s Department. They are sold nationwide, in Canada and in England. “They learn basic vocabulary, key words and phrases,” Sgt. Don Aguilar said about the program. “It’s street Spanish language skills for officers. This is what you’ll encounter on the streets.” The books are authored by Dees, who also has worked with the Ventura County Fire Department and will soon be teaching a course to volunteers of the Ventura County chapter of the Red Cross. The hand-sized books are targeted at police, fire, paramedic and EMT personnel. The program, which until recently was a joint venture by Dees and his wife Colette, who died more than a year ago, helps deputies complete field interview cards and crime reports and obtain suspect descriptions. Though not required, veteran and new hires are trained in basic workplace Spanish on a beginner, intermediate or advanced level. Each course consists of 33 hours of instruction. Sgt. Tim Hagel completed the program, then took two immersion programs in Mexico and Colombia. “I didn’t speak a word of Spanish,” Hagel said. “I worked as a patrol officer in 1992 in a primarily Hispanic community. I had a difficult time communicating with these people. “I wanted to bridge that gap. It was really important to me.” There was a time when he struggled to communicate with Spanish speakers, using hand signals and pointing to make himself understood. Today, he helps other sheriff’s deputies in emergency situations communicate with Spanish speakers in the field. And he is able to better assist Hispanics. “It goes beyond communicating with people. It’s about understanding someone’s culture,” Hagel said. “It’s made a difference in my life.” Cmdr. Dennis Carpenter, Thousand Oaks police chief, said the classes helped while he was working in the narcotics unit in the late 1990s, where he often encountered Spanish speakers. “I certainly was more equipped with these tools to communicate,” he said, adding that learning commands like “Don’t talk” and “Don’t move” were vital. The program was created after the department formed a Spanish-language committee to better aid the community and ensure safety. The committee, along with Dees, who was a member, helped create the curriculum. For more information on Dees and his program go to www.spanishforpoliceandfire.com. Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604 [email protected] TRANSLATING TIPS Key Spanish phrases sheriff’s deputies can learn through the handbook: “Tiene un problema?” – Do you have a problem? “Necesita ayuda?” – Do you need help? “Necesita policia, bombero o ambulancia?” – Do you need the police, firefighters or ambulance? “Esta herido?” – Are you hurt? “Donde le duele?” – Where does it hurt? “Tiene alergias?” – Any allergies? 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!