With a growing Latino population, Minneapolis is benefitting from local police officers’ newly acquired Spanish-speaking skills.

The Minneapolis Police Department began offering free weekly Spanish lessons to its officers about three years ago. So many are now interested that there’s a waiting list to get into the classes.

Officers now take police reports and complaints, give crime prevention seminars, and help answer even non-police-related questions speaking Spanish.

Officer Eric Shogren, a Minneapolis native of Swedish descent, feels his new command of the language has helped him in building relationships with the community.

The programs are cheap compared with the benefits to the officers and to the community, those involved say. Nearby St. Paul got about $30,000 in grant money for its pilot program, and Minneapolis spends about $21,000 a year for its Spanish language teacher and curriculum materials.

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