Bismarck Police Department Relies on Bilingual Officer - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Bismarck Police Department Relies on Bilingual Officer

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As North Dakota continues to be highlighted across the nation as the place for jobs, the state's population is growing in diversity.

With that comes some challenges for law enforcement.

Donnell Preskey has the story.

A courtroom can feel like a foreign place to anyone, but especially when you can't understand what anyone is saying.

Jose Osorio and Kelvin Oviedo are charged with attempted murder for the brutal beating of a roommate in Bismarck.

They speak no English.  Something that is not only a hurdle here in this courtroom but going back to the night they were arrested.

"They had a very dynamic scene looked like it could be one way or another. They couldn't figure out if the people were witnesses or suspects or victims. Stressful for responding officers because they couldn't speak with anybody," says Bismarck Police Detective Matt Fullerton.

That's where Fullerton steps in.

He says he's the one the department relies on the most for frequent translation.

Fullerton has a minor in Spanish and the most fluent Spanish speaking officer on the force.

"It is very valuable to have that knowledge ready to the police department.Because if something happens to pop up at 3:00 a.m. they'll call me at home," says Fullerton.

And the calls for his assistance are becoming more frequent, which is why Fullerton wants to train all officers basic Spanish.

Fullerton says, "especially for their safety. If they hear key words involving drugs or weapons they don't have to rely on me to clue them in on something that could be danger to them."

In this case a translator is used, the Burleigh County Court system has translators they contract with for court cases. In addition the Burleigh County Jail recently hired a jailer who is fluent in Spanish. Signs of a more diverse community. 

According to the Bismarck Police Department's Bias Based Profiling report, which breaks down citations and arrests according to race, gender and age, the number of citations they have issued since 2009 to whites has decreased.

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