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Lehi approves a stipend for city employees who speak a 2nd language

The exterior of the Joseph D. Adams Public Safety Building, headquarters of the Lehi City Police Department.
Courtesy of the Lehi City Police Department
The exterior of the Joseph D. Adams Public Safety Building, headquarters of the Lehi City Police Department.

As the Spanish-speaking population grows in Lehi, the need for — and reliance on — bilingual city employees has grown as well.

That’s why a new policy will soon add a stipend for employees who use a second language at their jobs. For those who use another language “daily or nearly daily,” $30 will be added per paycheck. It will be $15 for those who use a second language “less frequently or multiple times during a month.”

The policy was initially requested by the police department.

“It’s getting to the point for our patrol guys and our investigators that a large number of calls are becoming Spanish-speaking,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Magnusson.

“Several of the officers get used a lot more often because there’s more calls than there are Spanish-speaking officers. And so we felt this was a way to help compensate them a little more for some of the proficiencies that the other officers don’t have.”

According to Magnusson, the department is funded for 67 officers, and of that, he said 5 or 6 speak Spanish. He doesn’t necessarily think the stipend will bring in new Spanish-speaking officers, but “the bigger issue for us is to help keep and retain officers that have skills that we like or that we need.”

According to Andrea Jimenez, an immigrants’ rights policy analyst at the ACLU, having someone who speaks your language is particularly important when it comes to police work. If someone who doesn’t speak English is “being accused of something, they could inadvertently waive their rights or give false testimony or false witness identification.”

Jimenez wrote a 2023 report analyzing policies for language access in Utah’s police departments. For her, having bilingual police officers may not be the best solution.

“When you use police officers themselves, there may be conflicts of interest or community members may not trust them.”

Her report recommends hiring “authorized interpreters who aren't necessarily police officers, maybe administrative staff or contracted authorized interpreters.”

Still, Jimenez said “offering incentives for bilingual employees who can forgo that conflict of interest and are more of administrative staff or victim support folks, that can be a really good start providing them those incentives. And then it could also lead to more bilingual folks being hired in those capacities.”

The new stipend goes into effect July 1, 2024.

Tilda is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in the Central Utah bureau based out of Provo.
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