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Galax seeks bilingual police officer

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The language barrier makes it difficult for officers to serve the city's large Hispanic population. A federal grant could help.

By April Wright, Reporter

The City of Galax is seeking a grant to hire a bilingual police officer to better serve the Hispanic population in Galax.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) awards grants to economically disadvantaged communities.
If awarded, the COPS grant would fund the position for three years at a total of $135,993 for salary and benefits. This is an entry-level position that would also pay to put a candidate through the police academy.
At the conclusion of the federal funding, grantees must retain all sworn officer positions awarded under the grant for at least one year through state and/or local funds.
“The Spanish-speaking community is one that is under-served that we would like to be able to integrate better,” said Brenda Marrah, grants administrator for the city. “We’re hoping to target someone with bilingual skills to develop an outreach to the Hispanic community.”
Marrah noted that for one in seven households in Galax, Spanish is the primary language.
“This is a good opportunity,” said Galax Police Chief Rick Clark. “Our calls for service continue to increase, and this grant provides us with the opportunity to recruit someone who is bilingual.”
Clark said no one on the Galax police force is fluent in Spanish.
“We are unable to ask simple questions, such as ‘Where do you live? Where does it hurt?,’” said Clark.
“We all struggle with the language barrier, and the hiring of a person who is bilingual would be a tremendous asset to the city,” he added.