Law Enforcement Technology

NOV 2016

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Page 30 of 43 NOVEMBER 2016 LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY 31 IN T E L L I G E N C E - L E D P O L I C IN G T he inability to communicate can be frustrating or even fatal. Imagine conducting a routine traffic stop and discovering that the driver can't understand a word you're saying or why you've pulled them over. They're asking questions (you imagine) that you cannot make heads or tails of. What are those first few moments like? How quickly can a literal lack of understanding lead to feel- ings of confusion and fear, even suspicion and mistrust? Even if we are not bilingual ourselves, chances are we have neighbors who are or who have not yet learned or mastered English. This is especially true of communities with transient populations who come to work in tourist locales or take seasonal jobs. As such, law enforcement officers in big cities and small communities alike might struggle with situations where language becomes a barrier to offering services or conducting investigations. Translation options have been steadily diversifying to suit modern policing methods and a variety of needs. For example, an officer might find fast con- fidence on-scene through the help of a handheld app or device. Or during the course of an interview, an over-the-phone interpretation service may still be the way to go. There's no wrong answer when the intent is to communicate effectively while on patrol. Smart hiring practices Community policing hinges on good communication, from the East Coast to West and all places in between. Earlier this year New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) recognized this and began building a team of Spanish-English bilingual officers with the intent to improve communication with limited English-speaking communities. This was a first for the Gulf Coast department. They did it primarily through new hires. To make sure they attracted the most competent persons for the role the city's Civil Service Department, in partner- ship with a local registered interpreter, held a certification exam for Spanish- speaking officers. Exams for additional (and often more difficult) languages, like Vietnamese, are expected to follow. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison says, "This team…will allow our officers to do their jobs safely… [and] will build trust between police and limited English speaking residents and visitors. They will be more likely to report a crime and participate in police investigations." An agency press release adds, "Once certified, officers will be eligible to earn a five percent pay increase for using their language skills on the job." An officer who can truly 'talk the talk' is invaluable to the force. Jeff Munks is a former police officer and current Chairman of RTT Mobile Interpretation. While in law enforce- ment as a patrol officer in San Jose, California, Munks became a well-known figure in his dealings with Indochinese refugee youth gangs and cross-cultural communication. In the late 70s and early 80s, 25 percent of San Jose's population self-reported speaking Spanish in the home. As a bilingual officer Munks was able to bridge that divide. "It made a strong, deep-lasting impact on me…just the image of what I would confront when rolling up to the scene. The officer would be standing there in the kind of stance you don't like to see cops in, and the resident would have a look of fear or angst or anger, or suspi- cion or mistrust. But with a few words of English and a few words of Spanish I would be able to de-stress, de-escalate The invisible barrier Cooperation can be tough to come by in daily interactions, particularly when you don't share a common language. By Sara Scullin ¿ Habla español? Parlez-vous français ? Do you speak English? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parla italiano? Fala Português?

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