A Tri-Cities Latino advocacy group shot back at a state Latino organization calling for Pasco's police chief to be fired, saying they're unnecessary.
Consejo Latino issued the response to the Latino Civic Alliance the night after the Olympia-based group came to a Pasco City Council workshop to call for the city to fire Police Chief Bob Metzger.
The statewide nonpartisan organization initially sent a letter to city leaders because of Spanish-language training the department received for free from U.S. Border Patrol instructors in early June.
The four instructors from New Mexico spent a week in early June teaching 21 police officers and three Franklin County sheriff's deputies to speak Spanish well enough to avoid escalating potentially volatile situations.
The alliance called the move insulting and said it was intended to "frighten the Latino community in Pasco and the Tri-Cities."
In the letter to city leaders, the alliance also called the move "evidence of collaboration between the Border Patrol and Pasco police."
Alliance official Gabriel Munoz brought the message to a workshop meeting Monday night, renewing the call for the chief to resign. He called the choice to partner with Border Patrol unacceptable.
If Metzger had thought about his choice, he would have realized the effect of the training on the community, Munoz said.
He told the council that he would return next week with more organizations who are concerned about the training.
Metzger said the training was intended to bridge the gap between officers who aren't able to speak Spanish and a large amount of the city's residents who don't speak English, especially when a bilingual officer is not around.
"We needed something that was dynamic and included role-playing where we could use what we learned to reinforce these language skills," he said.
The training also was free.
Consejo Latino split with the larger state group, its executive board issuing a formal statement supporting the chief.
The local group cited Metzger's work improving relations between police and the Latino community in the three years following the police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.
The state group's continued demands undermine that relationship, Consejo Latino said.
Councilman Pete Serrano urged Munoz to bring people from the local community to speak on the subject. Hearing complaints from Yakima, Seattle or Puyallup isn't helpful, he said.
Council members, including Ruben Alvarado and Craig Maloney said the police department worked hard to improve the relationship with the Latino community.
"I just wish we could all come together and support the hard work that has happened here," Councilwoman Blanche Barajas said. "It may not reflect what's going on in other cities."