ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford Police have hired six bilingual officers in an effort to interact with the city’s evergrowing, multicultural community.

RPD says there are currently 11 officers going through police academy training right now, six of whom speak more than one language.

“We have Spanish, we have Greek, we have Arabic and Egyptian and Lithuanian. So we do have a very broad spectrum, which is great,” said recruiter Insp. Katy Statler.

Now, the force has new officers who speak Pakistani and Hindi.

Statler says it is important to have bilingual officers in the event police need to have a detailed conversation with witnesses to a crime.

“It’s that full on conversation: ‘Where? Can you tell us what happened? Can you describe the suspect? Can you describe the vehicle? Can you just tell me what happened from start to finish?'” Statler said. “That the part that is going to be the huge benefit, with these additional officers.”

Officer Jon Ross speaks Spanish, and he says he believes it is important to be able to talk with people, no matter what language they speak.

“It gives me a better understanding of the community that I’m serving. It gives me a little bit of an idea of where they’re at, their mindset, how they grew up, because I grew up the same way,” he said. “The interaction with the police is, I feel, like it’s better if you have somebody representing you in the police department.”

“They also, maybe, feel more relaxed,” he added. “They understand that I’m on their side, that, when it’s time for them to tell their story, that they feel heard.”

Statler says the police department’s goal is for staffing to mirror the diverse community of Rockford.

“I hope, with these additional officers, that’s just one more stride that the Rockford Police Department is trying to help the community in being able to have that communication, where that victim or that witness feels safe speaking with the officers, in that we can get all the information that we need, and we don’t miss anything. That can, maybe, potentially help solve a crime,” she said.

Applications for experienced police officers seeking a lateral move into the Rockford Police Department are open until the end of 2023. On June 1st, applications will open for entry-level officers.