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7390: Rookie Fort Lauderdale officer is first Creole speaker on force (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Rookie Fort Lauderdale officer is first Creole  speaker on force
 By RAFAEL A. OLMEDA, Sun-Sentinel Web-posted: 11:05 p.m. Mar. 17, 2001

 FORT LAUDERDALE -- Police Officer Michael Stitt only said a  few words
to the group of Haitians who met with representatives of the Fort
Lauderdale Police Department on Tuesday. But those  words were enough to
spark cheers and applause.
Maybe it was what he said, a simple declaration that he, too,  was born
and raised in Haiti. Or perhaps it was how he said it --  in Creole.
With four weeks on the job, Stitt is the Fort Lauderdale Police
Department's only Creole-speaking officer. In a department
intent on improving its relationship with the Haitian community,  Stitt
is the most visible symbol of progress.   But civic leaders and the
department agree that one creole-speaking officer is not enough. They
want more, and with about 22 police officer positions  open, the
department is actively courting residents through Haitian newspapers,
radio stations, churches and civic groups.     "We're everywhere," said
Sgt. Charmaine Gittens-Jacques,  who heads the recruiting effort. "The
chief (Michael Brasfield)            made his expectations known to me.
We want qualified Haitian  applicants to join the police."  Stitt, a
rookie who put himself through the police academy in  Brevard County,
declined interview requests.  Detective Mike Reed, the department's
spokesman, said Stitt  is on probation and working with a field training
officer, which is standard for new hires.  More Creole-speaking
candidates are scheduled to join the  force soon, Gittens-Jacques said.
The most recent police exam  was on March 10, and candidates who passed
the written  portion are in the middle of oral interviews to see if
they'll make
 the cut. At least one of those candidates speaks Creole, and there may
be more, Gittens-Jacques said.  Public Service Aide Daniel Mirabal, a
native of the Dominican   Republic who learned Creole from his Haitian
mother, is also expected to become a full-fledged officer,
Gittens-Jacques said.  The need for Creole-speaking officers was
underscored at  Tuesday's town hall meeting at Thurgood Marshall
Elementary          School in the South Middle River neighborhood.
Several speakers  told about encounters with police who were insensitive
to their  cultural differences. One woman said she was cited for running
a red light, then was questioned about being able to afford a
  fancy car.   "They did not have anyone in that department who knows
anything about our culture or our experiences," said Francois   Leconte,
president of the Minority Development & Empowerment  Haitian Community
Center."More needs to be done, but so far the police have shown a
willingness to move in the right direction."            Leconte said
Haitians in the United States are mistrustful  about government in
general -- and the police in particular. This  is partly due to
experiences in Haiti, but it also comes from the  cold welcome they get
in this country. "They give amnesty to the Cubans, but not to the
Haitians," Leconte said. "They even tried to blame us for AIDS back when
people were starting to learn about that disease."  Progress has been
made in other agencies. The Broward Sheriff's Office has Creole-speaking
deputies, although Recruiting   Director Homer Reid wasn't sure how
many. The sheriff's office regularly advertises in Haitian newspapers
and radio stations as part of an overall effort to reach out to all
communities, Reid said.
  While Fort Lauderdale department's effort is aiming to bring Haitians
onto the force, Detective Reed said the primary goal is   to hire good
candidates who want to be police officers, like  Stitt. "Stitt wanted to
get into law enforcement," Reed said. "The           language issue was
a plus, but he came here because he wanted  to get into law enforcement,
and that's the kind of person we're  looking for."