LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Communication is key, especially in times of an emergency.
In many cases though, a language barrier can delay emergency response times.
In Pulaski County, deputies are working to bridge the gap with the Hispanic community and build relationships at the same time.
Ana Escamilla didn’t always dream of being a sheriff’s deputy.
“I really wanted to be a basketball coach,” said Deputy Ana Escamilla.
As got older though, she found a passion for serving her community.
“They were always people I looked up to,” said Deputy Escamilla.
For the past five years, she has been with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, in a role that’s helping break barriers.
“I’ll get a phone call at least once a week if not more. They are like, ‘hey, can you translate this call?’” said Deputy Escamilla.
Deputy Escamilla is one of only 2 bilingual deputies in Pulaski County.
“There are a lot of Hispanic people in our south-central district,” said Deputy Escamilla.
She is a comforting voice to the Spanish-speaking community during emergency situations.
“I think that’s the part of the job I enjoy. I know that when I go to these types of calls with Spanish-speaking people, they get a lot more comfortable when they see or hear that I speak Spanish,” said Deputy Escamilla.
It’s a passion that runs in the family.
Escamilla’s sister, Karen, is the sheriff’s office only bilingual 911 dispatcher.
“My co-workers have been very helpful. Whenever they get a Spanish-speaking call they always try and help as much as they can, but once they realize they speak Spanish and they need somebody that can understand them, that’s when they let me know,” said Karen Escamilla.
The sisters may work different shifts, but they still consider themselves a team.
“I think, a few times, I’ve had to call her and say hey you may get called for this reason to interpret for another deputy, just to give her a heads up,” said Karen Escamilla.
They agree the biggest challenge is getting Spanish-speaking people to pick up the phone and call for help.
“Sometimes they’ll be afraid to call because they are afraid of their status in this country,” said Deputy Escamilla. “I could care less about it. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
Some don’t even know how.
“A lot of them don’t know that they can call 911 when there are big incidents. Being able to be on the other line to tell them, ‘call us if you ever need anything,’ it reassures them that they can call for help,” said Karen Escamilla.
Deputy Escamilla said she works with other deputies to teach them important Spanish words or phrases to help them with communication in an emergency.
She also reminds people they can always text 911 for help.