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Korean Man's Ordeal

February 18, 1996

Re "Police and Non-English Speakers," editorial, Feb. 8:

It's hard to believe the Los Angeles Police Academy is still turning out officers like those who jeopardized the life of 81-year-old Dong-Sik Chong. Was Chong's inability to speak English enough reason to be detained, and later released at 3 a.m. in an area unfamiliar to him? Is Korean such a rare language in Los Angeles that these officers couldn't find anyone who could have explained to them that Chong was merely trying to return home?

I suggest that these unresourceful officers be sent back to the academy.




The Times is of course correct that the LAPD must act in the aftermath of Chong's terrible treatment. However, making "better use of the many ethnic community resources that exist in Los Angeles" is only a part of the solution. The best and most efficient way to ensure adequate police services for all of Los Angeles is to hire more bilingual officers and to provide language training to current officers interested in becoming bilingual. Reliance on nonpolice interpreters is a poor substitute for trained public safety professionals who can communicate competently in more than one language.

For the last three years, the department has consistently ended each fiscal year with a vacancy rate for designated bilingual positions that exceeds 10%. While the greatest number of vacancies is for Spanish speakers, it should come as no surprise, given Chong's experience, that the vacancy rate for Korean speakers is consistently among the highest.


Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, L.A.


Re Chong's plight after causing a disturbance at a house he mistook for his daughter's residence:

Why in the world would his family allow him out on a walk alone if he spoke no English, was hard of hearing and unfamiliar with his surroundings?




A few months ago, I was returning with two LAPD Northeast Division homicide detectives from the scene of a gang-related double murder. As we were driving, the detectives noticed an elderly Asian man clinging to a chain-link fence. The man appeared to be about 80 years old and to weigh about 90 pounds. Fearing he was in some type of distress, the detectives stopped their car to assist. After speaking with the man, whose English was limited, the detectives gently carried him to their car and called for paramedics. They also used a cellular phone to call the man's son to come and assist his father.

The detectives remained with the man for about 45 minutes while the paramedics examined him and determined he was simply feeling dizzy from overexertion. They also recontacted the son to inform him of his father's condition. Finally, they made certain the man was well enough to drive the few miles to his home before they left him at his car.

These two detectives will never have an article written about this incident in The Times, and nobody will visit Chief Willie Williams to tell him about their actions. I just think that, when we criticize the police, it is important to remember the countless acts of unrecognized kindness and assistance they also provide on a daily basis.


Deputy District Attorney

Los Angeles

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