Members of the Public Safety Subcommittee were tasked with identifying and making recommendations to address various issues and concerns related to public safety. The Subcommittee addressed four broad areas related to public safety, i.e., 1) Law Enforcement, 2) Emergency Services, 3) Emergency Preparedness, and 4) the Legal System.
The group set out to identify problems under each area and to recommend specific short and long term solutions. Common across all topic areas was a lack of hard data needed to substantiate the severity of the problems. It was suggested that the lack of record-keeping by Hispanic origin and/or ethnicity makes it hard to convince public officials of the need to act immediately to create and implement revised policies and procedures, and various new program initiatives.
As has been stated in other sections of this report, the language barrier was identified as a major impediment when interacting with various segments of the Public Safety community. Many Hispanics do not speak English and have a very difficult time communicating with persons representing law enforcement, emergency services, emergency preparedness and the judicial system. Front line personnel, such as dispatchers and telecommunication workers are oftentimes not fluent in Spanish or other languages. As a result, many services (especially emergency services) that are easily accessible to English speaking persons, are not easily obtained by non-English speaking persons. When front line workers, those up the chain of service delivery and those needing the services are unable to communicate, once again we risk total system failure. Persons are disengaged from basic services and when multiplied throughout the entire Public Safety arena, it has the potential for catastrophic results. The communication problem multiplies itself, in that it permeates the entire system beginning with the first point of contact to the last person, be it police officers, court personnel or criminal justice staff.
Language is not the only barrier. In many cultures, there is no distinction between the police and the military. The cultural difference can lead to serious misunderstandings. Depending upon the country of origin, there is often a general mistrust of the police, resulting in a reluctance to report crimes and victimization.
The remainder of this report attempts to identify problems, issues and concerns by various areas, followed by specific advisory recommendations.