Law Enforcement Technology

NOV 2016

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32 LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY NOVEMBER 2016 and in most cases resolve the situation short of something happening that nobody wanted." Tools of the trade Bilingual officers—even at-the-ready interpreters—will make life much easier. But sometimes you can't justify new hires, or even the time it would take vet- eran officers to learn a complex language. Depending on the situation, whether interacting with a frightened child or friendly passerby, your preferred means of translation may vary. When San Jose began to receive a steady number of Vietnamese refugees in the early 80s, RTT's Munk recalls the confusion. "We couldn't get our point across, they couldn't get their point across, and some went to jail…some- times by means of the hospital." He tried to learn Vietnamese at a top language institute but "couldn't get there." Shortly after, he and a partner thought to put interpreters into the phone line as fixed assets and started LanguageLine Solutions in 1982. Over-the-phone (OPI) interpreters speak all of the nearly 200 languages spo- ken in the U.S. They are recruited, work from their homes, have phones installed in homes dedicated to this purpose, and must answer within seconds. OPI sells its services to PDs, hospitals, schools, and others who have such encounters. This is still the dominant model of transla- tion in policing: The dispatcher is the answering point and bridges officers with an interpreter. Transactions are relatively quick, although OPI can cost more as it is billed by the minute. But there are other options available. Charts, apps, devices For many years first responders—par- ticularly paramedics—have relied on simple flip charts that they can navigate cooperatively with someone who might have limited English. You may have seen one of these in your doctor's office ("Rate your pain from 1 to 10"). Such visual aids give responders the tools (and confidence) they will need to get through that one emergency response. But this is probably not the ticket for more complex scenarios. Beyond charts, is that other multitool that officers carry with them—the cell- phone. An increasing number of apps are cropping up that can quickly turn a phrase. In January, Windows announced all NYPD officers would use a transla- tor app on their Windows phone. At the touch of the button Microsoft Translator can translate a number of languages via voice and 50 languages in text form. In September the South China Morning Post reported Officers Michael Dear and Daniel Krockel (LAPD) used a translation app to stop a Korean man from committing suicide by jumping at LAX airport. Such apps are handy and accessible, but more commonly used in a pinch, and may not be ideal for more in-depth inter- views and conversations. They are better than nothing, but likely not the best bet for police investigations and information that may end up in court. Next comes handheld devices designed specifically for translation. Police Chief Jesus Eddie Campa with Marshall (Texas) Police Department understands firsthand the stress of not being able to communicate. "When I moved to East Texas (from West Texas), there were some phrases and sayings and ways of talking that…I didn't understand. It made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't know what was being said to me. So imagine just totally not understanding it completely. [In a traffic stop situation] I would be really nervous because I have no idea why this guy just stopped me. I have no idea what I did." He says a routine traffic stop can quickly unravel. "You're telling them to stop…they make some kind of movement, you mistake it, you use force, or unfortunately deadly force…So you have an incident that could've easily de-escalated and taken it to a whole different level." To counter this, Marshall police recently acquired four Voxtec Phraselators and four SQUID handheld translation devices (also Voxtec) through a government program. They plan to use the devices during traffic stops, inter- views, emergency situations and any other situation where they might encoun- ter a language barrier. The SQUID devic- es have hundreds of preset commands in many different languages that officers use every day. The newest SQUID 410 boasts eyes-free language translation so officers can minimize distractions. In addition to setting up its bilingual team, NOPD also equipped its offi- cers with Enabling Language Service Anywhere (ELSA) devices from RTT Mobile Interpretation in all eight dis- tricts. They included a checkbox in their electronic police reporting system that identifies victims and offenders who need language assistance. The compact ELSA device provides hands-free access to OPI services. RTT Mobile Interpretation's ELSA (Enabling Language Ser vice Any where) is a small, portable, body-worn device with one-button activation. Specialty devices may save money over traditional interpreters as you are not keeping someone "on the line" (and paying them) over the course of a two- hour investigation.

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