Working toward a bilingual force
Police Officer Federico Nietzche of the Dalton Police Department grew up in Dalton and graduated from Southeast High School in 1999. He said when news of House Bill 87 hit the Hispanic community through radio shows and the Internet, there was an “initial shock.”
“It was like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re passing a big immigration law that’s going to run everybody out,’” said Nietzche, a four-year Latino member of the Dalton force who followed in his grandfather’s steps and became a policeman. “There was a lot of talk about what we would do (as a law enforcement agency), whether we’d be going down the road asking people for their papers. The answer is no. It won’t affect the average citizen walking downtown.”
He said a “concern” he’s picked up on from the Hispanic community as a patrol officer is that law enforcement officers would become “immigration officers” starting July 1.
“That’s all they were concerned about,” Nietzche said, “thinking, ‘Are you going to be able to arrest anyone who’s illegal?’”
Parker said the force has five bilingual officers and others have been trained in the Spanish language.
“We couldn’t say that our entire force is fluent, by any means, but we can say we have the only agency in the state that requires and provides for officers to receive training in the Spanish language,” he said. “The reason for that is that we realize half of the population we serve is of Hispanic ethnicity or an ethnic group that does not speak English.”
Nietzche said his understanding of the new law is that it gives officers “authority” to ask for immigration status if a person is breaking the law or attempting to give false information.
“The new law is giving us more tools in the bag to use,” he said. “The average citizen has nothing to worry about, but it gives us another tool to deal with people who are breaking the law or who are involved in something suspicious.”
Police spokesman Bruce Frazier said there is “one thing” the law doesn’t change.
“We still have to have probable cause to investigate someone,” he said. “It has to be probable cause for anything in a law enforcement situation, because we know we can be challenged in court on that.”