Law enforcement's cultural exchange Police: A Baltimore sergeant will spend a month with Argentine police to help officers here form a better relationship with the city's Spanish-speakers.

September 02, 1998|By Paula Lavigne | Paula Lavigne,SUN STAFF

After several years of trying to recruit more Spanish-speaking officers from Baltimore's growing Hispanic community, Baltimore Police Sgt. Rufino J. Garcia will spend a month in a country where police departments cater to about 34 million Spanish-speaking citizens.

Garcia, 50, a native of Puerto Rico, will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November as part of a cultural exchange program between Baltimore and Buenos Aires. He said he hopes to bring home lessons learned to help the police deal better with Baltimore's Spanish-speaking communities.

His trip is part of the annual Rotary International Group Study Exchange, arranged and paid for by the Rotary club representing Central Maryland and Washington, said member Bill C. Horsey. Garcia, the only representative from Baltimore, will travel with three other Maryland professionals from Crofton, Chevy Chase and Rockville and a Rotary leader from Washington. The Argentine group, which has not yet been chosen, will arrive in April, Horsey said.

Baltimore County Police Col. Kim Ward traveled to Switzerland through the Rotary program in 1993. She said she was exposed to law enforcement technology and ideas in central Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

Ward nominated Garcia -- a city police officer she said had a valuable law enforcement background and a lot of enthusiasm.

Garcia said he wants to use the trip to address juvenile crime, curfews, community policing and cultural diversity in both cities. He will stay with police officers and their families.

"It's going to be an opportunity for me to find out how the police department in Argentina deals with the community," he said. "I know they have a rigid police department."

Garcia, one of 21 Baltimore city police officers who speaks Spanish, developed an 18-hour Spanish-language program for officers, served as the first Spanish liaison officer for the Southeast District and is a representative on the Baltimore City Police Commissioner's Advisory Council on Discrimination and Baltimore County Police Department's Advisory Board.

Haydee M. Rodriguez, director of Centro de la Comunidad -- a Hispanic community center in Southeast Baltimore where Garcia was on the board of directors from 1995 to 1996 -- said Garcia's professionalism and ability to speak with Hispanic citizens increased their trust of the Police Department.

"He was very sensitive to the fact that many of the people in the Southeastern District who do not speak English fear the police," she said.

Garcia joined the city Police Department in 1973. In 1984, he left to work for the federal government in Albuquerque, N.M., but returned to Baltimore in 1993 where he lives with his wife, Lucrecia, an executive manager for the city's housing police.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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