MOULTRIE — The Moultrie City Council is trying to find ways to attract bilingual officers to the city’s fire and police departments. One way they may attract new officers is with an increase in the incentive package for those speaking multiple languages.

The council did add $500 in incentives for police officers for graduation from the FBI National Academy and polygraph certification Tuesday. Councilman Cecil Barber, however, told the council they should examine the incentive for bilingual officers with both the fire department and police department because the current $500 annual incentive is too low.

The Moultrie Police Department is in serious need of officers who can speak more than English. Moultrie Police Chief Frank Lang said the department only has one bilingual officer, and he is called any time another officer needs to speak with someone who speaks Spanish. It is estimated that there are 15,000 Hispanics in Colquitt County on any given day.

The department had spent more than two years attempting to recruit any officers from the Hispanic community, but Lang said nobody has applied over a 20-month period. In addition to hoping for an increase in the bilingual incentive, the department has been attempting to recruit through the criminal justice program at Moultrie Technical College and through the Explorers program at Colquitt County High School in an effort to reach the Hispanic community.

Adding more Hispanic officers or Spanish-speaking officers would do the community well and represent the Hispanic community in the department, Lang said. Currently, anyone who would like to become a police officer with the Moultrie Police Department must attend a 10-week peace officer training course and a three-month FTO program.

Lang said officers throughout the state can attend a Survival Spanish class taught for officers in Forsyth. Because of the high demand for the class, however, no officers from Moultrie have been able to attend the class.

However bilingual officers can be found, Lang said something needs to be done for police officers to better serve the Hispanic community.

Moultrie Fire Department Chief Kenneth Hannon said his department has three bilingual officers, one on each of three shifts. The fire department deals with the Hispanic community primarily with medical calls and house fires.

The annual incentive for being bilingual does entice some firefighters to take classes and learn another language, but Hannon said the firefighters are more concerned with hourly pay and benefits than any incentives. The incentive, part of many incentives available to all police officers and firefighters, does provide a “nice little bonus” once a year.

Both Lang and Hannon said a possible scenario of any of those bilingual officers being off-duty creates a big problem for either department should the need for a bilingual officer arise.

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