Language barrier tops candidate forum

Relations between the Carson City Sheriff's Department and Hispanic citizens was a major concern Thursday night during a Sheriff's Candidate Forum hosted by the Latin American Citizens at the Brewery Arts Center.

All five candidates agreed there was a need in the community for more Spanish speaking officers in a department that has only four.

"This is a very critical issue in Carson City," said Chief Deputy Scott Burau of the Carson City Sheriff's Department. "I believe the agency should mirror the community, so if you have an 18 percent Hispanic population you should have 18 percent Hispanic officers and we are actively recruiting."

Deputy Richard Mendoza of the Sheriff's Department said he would support a Hispanic Crisis group that would respond 24 hours a day to calls where translation is needed, much like the recently enacted Domestic Violence Response Team.

"They can assist us in relaxing these people to help them out," he said.

Ken Furlong, an investigator with the Nevada Division of Investigations, said in his administration the Sheriff's Department would find ways to improve relations.

"I believe because of (the 20 percent Hispanic) population base we must have -- and under my administration will have -- an Hispanic liaison officer," he said.

Questions from the audience addressed fear of police in the Hispanic community.

"What are your plans as far as what kind of training you are going to offer your officers to be able to deal with the Hispanic community?" asked Norma Santoyo, adding that many Hispanics feel they've been mistreated by police and although they may not formally complain, they talk in the community about their bad experiences.

"I will bring the citizens from the community into the department," responded Fazzino, a special investigator with the Attorney General's Office. "I also want to give the community the tools to do what they need to do to develop and work with children on the streets."

Guimont said in his academy training, he received very little Hispanic culture.

"What makes me sick to my stomach is when I drive through a predominantly Hispanic area and little kids see that black and white cop car and run," he said, adding he attributes that attitude in the Hispanic community against police comes from prior bad experiences.

"I got this job to help people. I will involve the Hispanic community with what's going on," he said.

"The sheriff's department needs to devote an enormous amount of time to recruitment, I also believe the Sheriff's Department needs to have very strong and effective communications," Furlong said.

The League of United Latin American Citizens mission is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population in the United States.


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