The Tisbury police department has launched a training program for officers to learn Portuguese, aiming to better serve a growing Brazilian population on the Island.

The program was added to the comprehensive list of officer training courses under the direction of Tisbury Sgt. Max Sherman. Weekly assignments, carried out on the language-learning website Duolingo, have become a mandatory part of routine training.

“We practice how to shoot straight and accurately, to properly use force and how to arrest people, but the thing we use much more is our language and our communication skills,” Mr. Sherman told the Gazette in an interview at the station Monday. “Language can de-escalate a situation. Even if we can’t go word for word, the simple effort is a sign of respect that can go a long way.”

He added: “Part of helping your community is knowing your community. We know the residence has grown to include much more than English speakers.”

The language training began at the initiative of officer Carla Gomes, a native of Brazil who has lived on the Island since she was 14 and was hired in Tisbury last year. She is police-academy trained and formerly worked as a security officer at the Edgartown courthouse for nearly a decade. In that job, she served as an unofficial translator.

“[Officer Gomes] said she thought we could do a lot better with our Portuguese outreach,” said Tisbury police chief Mark Saloio. “When she said that, I actually felt a little embarrassed, because she was spot on.”

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the majority of police officers to speak fluent Portuguese,” the chief said. “But I think it is absolutely reasonable, and just good practice, to be able to communicate — especially in an emergency situation.”

Officer Gomes said Brazilians who come to the station often ask to speak directly to her, whether they are reporting a crime or just have a question.

“They are much more relaxed when they can speak Portuguese, and that makes everything else better,” she said. “I have a lot of confidence in my colleagues . . . that they can have a similar role.”

She added that many Brazilians are uneasy with police, whom she said are often violent and corrupt in their native country.

Sergeant Sherman said most interactions between Brazilians and police officers occur during routine motor vehicle stops. Portuguese language skills can aid officers in informing drivers about the law, he said.

And with the online language learning program, officers can learn without having to attend scheduled classes.

Since the training program began two weeks ago, the green Duolingo owl has something of a mascot in the Tisbury police station. “That little green bird is always there, reminding us assignments are due,” Sergeant Sherman said.

In related steps, the department is working to translate incident report forms, which were previously only in English. And a translated version of the mission statement will soon appear below the English version, painted on the staircase that leads to the station off Water street:

“The mission of the Tisbury police department is to work together with our residents and visitors to provide safety, security and an enhanced quality of life within our community.”