Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The communication and cultural gaps between law enforcement in St. Kitts and Nevis and the Spanish-speaking community are getting smaller as a result of concerted efforts at the Police Training School.
The school’s Commandant, Inspector Shorna Francis-Edwards, said that Spanish was listed as a formal subject during the training of Course 45. The introduction of the language training is a direct result of the growing population of Spanish speakers living in the twin-island Federation. Their influence is particularly noticeable in Newtown, where the training school is located.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Pandemic derailed the planned sessions. Twenty-four-hour curfews and other extended restrictions imposed due to the community spread of the deadly virus resulted in limited access to the police compound. After the community spread was contained, Spanish classes were held but the content was scaled down due to time constraints. However, the men and women of Course 45 were able to learn a bit more about the foreign language and the culture from one of their own.
Recruit 434 Willmoht Warner-Michel hails from the Dominican Republic. He moved to St. Kitts and Nevis in 2006 when he was very young. Now 22-years-old, Warner Michel decided to join the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force to help break the stereotype that persons in the Spanish community are either barbers, domestic workers, or bar owners. He said that when he entered training in May 2021, he was readily embraced by his coursemates.
“When they first saw me, they tried to interact in Spanish with me. Even though they got certain words wrong, I saw that they had an interest in learning the language and getting to know me as a Spanish person,” Warner-Michel stated. “After Spanish classes, they would ask me words and stuff like that, and I would try to explain it to them slowly because I [normally] speak fast and they won’t catch on.”
Recruit 443 Dequanna Browne appreciated the added exposure to the subject as the Federation’s population is becoming more diverse.
“In St. Kitts and Nevis, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking persons in our community. So, I think it is very important because they go through problems too and we as police officers, how can we understand them if we don’t know the language?” she said.
Inspector Shorna Francis-Edwards said that plans are in the works to open up Spanish classes to other officers within the force. This is expected to take place in 2022. The measure is expected to promote understanding and improve relations between both parties.