Prov. Police Officer Earns Degree in Spanish to Better Serve Community

Patrolman Taylor Britto, 33, who has worked for the Providence Police Department for eight years, has completed a bachelor’s degree in modern languages/Spanish at Rhode Island College.  

Though Spanish is not Britto's first language, he said earning a degree in Spanish has broadened his understanding of cultural differences and given him “a more caring and understanding way of policing.”

“I’ve responded to several calls where individuals are frightened because they are unable to communicate to the police in English,” he said.

Out of an estimated 400 officers in his department, only 37 speak Spanish, he said. Britto found that when he would arrive on the scene and begin communicating with them in their native tongue, they would become visibly calmer.

“It feels good to know that I can help make a difference in their lives,” he said. “If you can’t communicate with people, you can’t help them.”

Ten years ago, while earning a bachelors degree in criminal justice at Norwich University, a military college in Vermont, Britto studied abroad for a semester, taking two courses at the Costa Rican Language Academy, which, he said, spurred his interest in becoming fluent in Spanish. From there he visited Guadalajara, Mexico, taking two Spanish courses at the IMAC Programa de Espanol. Finally, at RIC he was able to immerse himself completely in the language and to study abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

“All of my professors at RIC have had a great impact on my life,” he said. “The atmosphere was amazing, the teaching methods were great and my professors were all very knowledgeable.”

Britto believes “the more languages you speak, the more people you can reach.” He also speaks Portuguese and understands Cape Verdean Creole. 

Recognizing his outstanding academic achievement in the study of foreign languages, Britto was made a member of the Phi Sigma Iota International Foreign Language Honor Society.

Along with his 2014 bachelor’s degree in modern languages/Spanish, Britto holds a master’s degree in human services counseling (2013), a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice (2004) and is working on a doctorate degree in ministry. He is also youth pastor at Heritage Christian Fellowship in Warwick.

This tireless officer’s next project is to open a community center for youth and families. He said the center will offer daycare services, an after-school tutoring program, church services and outreach that includes mentoring and counseling on teen pregnancy, domestic violence and other issues.

Britto said his love for working with the community is probably rooted in his childhood. He said his single mother would take in foster children of all nationalities, many of whom were troubled or had serious health issues. And he witnessed this throughout his life, developing the same concern for people.

Today, because his Spanish language skills are such a rare commodity, Britto is frequently called on by his department to translate the many voices of his community. Though it keeps him busier than normal, he said he is happy to accommodate. “I love my job. It’s what I was meant to do.”