CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Charlottesville Police Department is taking an important step to bridge a gap with some of the people it serves.

CPD has launched its first in-house Spanish class. The program aims to help officers learn how to ask non-English speakers basic but important questions in Spanish.

Lieutenant Brian O’Donnell and the CPD are teaming up with Charlottesville-based nonprofit Sin Barreras to hold Spanish lessons for the Police Department twice a month.

“We noticed that there was a distinct lack of Spanish speakers,” O’Donnell said. “The fact is we have a number of people in this Hispanic community that don’t speak a lot of English and this is a great way to break down some of those barriers.”

Sin Barreras – also known as Without Barriers– works primarily with Hispanic immigrant families in the city.

“I think that having a police department that understands the Spanish language…will allow my community to advocate for themselves,” said Javier Raudales of Sin Barreras.

Volunteer Sara Garcia says it is rewarding to see the CPD making an effort to engage with the Hispanic community in Charlottesville.

“They are really willing to learn and they are anxious to learn more,” Garcia said. “It’s been a really cool experience because I really admire that they want to be learning Spanish and be more engaged with the community. As a native Spanish speaker, it means a lot to me.”

O’Donnell hopes this will be the first steps of many when it comes to bridging the gap in the Charlottesville community.

“If we can speak to them in their language or at least greet them and try to speak with them in their native tongue, I think it could go a long way to build relationships,” O’Donnell said.

As of now, the curriculum primarily focuses on conversational Spanish but organizers hope to later add legal terms for officers to learn.