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Galax PD to create Hispanic outreach

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A federal COPS grant will pay for a new bilingual officer at the Galax Police Dept.

By April Wright, Reporter

A $140,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will allow the Galax Police Department to hire a bilingual police officer and create an outreach to the Hispanic population in Galax.
This Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grant will provide funding for an entry-level position, including salary and benefits and training, if needed, of a newly-hired, or rehired, full-time officer position. The Galax Police Department will be required to fund the position for 12 months in the fourth year.
The grant, given to economically disadvantaged communities, was awarded last week. COPS awarded more than $243 million nationwide to 238 law enforcement agencies for the hiring of new officers and deputies.
The competitive grant program provides funding directly to law enforcement agencies to hire police officers dedicated to addressing specific crime and disorder challenges confronting communities.
Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said the police department has long needed a bilingual officer, and this will be the first Spanish-fluent officer for the department.
“There’s not a day that goes by that one of the city officers doesn’t need an interpreter,” said Clark.
The 2010 U.S. Census showed that Galax’s Hispanic population grew from 11 percent to 14 percent since 2000.
The chief said officers are unable to ask simple questions: Where do you live? What are your injuries?
Clark has said that he feels crime in the city's Hispanic community is under-reported due to the language barrier.
He is hoping this new hire will bring down that barrier, which the department struggles with almost every day.
The police department has begun advertising the position, said Clark. He expects to select an entry-level worker by early December.
For the 2011 COPS Hiring Program, 2,712 applications were received requesting more than $2 billion and 8,999 positions. Funding decisions were based on an agency’s commitment to community policing, crime rates, changes in law enforcement budgets and other local fiscal data, such as poverty, unemployment and foreclosure rates.
“Cities across the country are dealing with numerous challenges, and we are pleased to be able to assist their public safety efforts,” said Bernard Melekian, COPS director. “Creating and maintaining the jobs is a key part of this program.”
This funding, Melekian said, helps support local departments in their efforts to increase their ranks, enhances their relationships with the community and directly addresses their public safety concerns.
The program awards will create or preserve 1,021 sworn law enforcement positions.
The COPS office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.
Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $13 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of about 120,000 officers.