CCSO faces discrimination complaint

Posted at 11:23 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 23:23:50-04

NAPLES, Fla -- A federal complaint was filed against the Collier County Sheriff's office on behalf of Spanish speaking people in the county.

Victor Valdes, who runs his own Human Rights Foundation filed the complaint over the lack of Spanish speaking interpreters at the county's 911 dispatch center.

The issue stems from an incident in January when a Collier Deputy shot a knife wielding man in Immokalee.  A Spanish speaking man called 911 at the time of the incident, then hung up when the dispatcher spoke to him in Spanish,

"I think it was more a communication issue, not a language issue," said Capt. Tim Guerrette. 

He says the county has a 24-hour language line.  Spanish speaking callers are immediately patched over to a translator, after being asked to press "1" for Spanish.  But the man hung up again after being given that prompt.

Dispatchers tried calling him back and even sent help his way by tracking where he was from his cell phone signal.

"In this case actually the dispatcher exhausted all avenues, trying to figure out, what did the individual want, did they want police fire or medical," said Capt. Guerrette.

He says the county has 6 Spanish speaking dispatchers, but they don't work at the same time.  That isn't good enough for Valdes.

"If we have minorities, a big group of minority people, Creole, Hispanic, you need to have 24 hours a person sitting in front of the phone."

The county says its language lane is federally recognized, and it is not violating federal law.  But Valdes says there needs to be more Spanish speakers available immediately, not through a third party.  Especially if someone calls 911 with a medical emergency.'