Arizona Republic
January 3, 2007

Author: Brian Indrelunas, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2
, The (Phoenix, AZ)
When the Mesa Police Department needs to communicate with Spanish speakers through the media or in person, the job often falls to the nearest available bilingual officer.

The department wants to change that next year by adding a bilingual spokesperson to its media relations staff.

Six sworn employees have applied for the position, which is not expected to require additional funding.

"The primary role will be in here in the media relations office, but they will be assigned in two other areas as well," said Sgt. Chuck Trapani, head of the department's public information office.

The new spokesperson will assist with community-outreach efforts and with Chief George Gascon's meetings with Spanish-speaking citizens, although Gascon is fluent in Spanish.

Mesa's population is 20 to 25 percent Hispanic, and Spanish is the first language for many.

Community Partnership coordinator Denise Traves said the new spokesperson will attend community meetings she coordinates to discuss critical incidents, such as the recent "Serial Shooters" case.

Bilingual officers often have more pressing duties and aren't always available to talk with Spanish speakers, Traves said.

With a full-time bilingual spokesperson, she said, "I know that I'm not going to be pulling that person from another critical area."

Trapani said the spokesperson would handle the increasing requests for interviews and information in Spanish.

"The flow of information will probably be a lot smoother, and then the Spanish-speaking media will have a primary contact in the office," he said.

He will interview candidates and make a recommendation to Gascon, who will have the final say.

Trapani said he hopes to have someone on the job by February.

Gascon said the lack of a bilingual spokesperson has been "a void that we've had in our (public information) office."

"We clearly have a need to communicate with Spanish-speaking media, and we want to make sure that we do it accurately," he said.

Other Valley police departments have long had bilingual spokespeople, Gascon said.

"This is not cutting-edge stuff," he said. "It's just common sense."
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Chandler Republic
Page: 14