Law Enforcement Tackles Language Barriers

Foreign LanguagesIn an increasingly multiethnic society, United States law enforcement agencies are faced with the challenge of providing services and communicating with citizens with varying degrees of proficiency in the English language. Federal Limited English Proficiency (LEP) laws require departments to develop a plan to minimize language barriers, so that officers and investigators can work effectively with diverse communities.

To assist departments with the growing necessity of translation, Net Transcripts provides confidential services for law enforcement agencies seeking a reliable resource for translation of investigations, interviews, jail calls and other foreign language recordings. Requests are processed with three service options, to fit department budgets and needs. The direct-to-English option provides a translation of the foreign language audio as a written English document, while the transcription option results in a document typed in the original language spoken in the recording. Transcription with translation is a double-column format option with the original language typed as spoken in the left column, and a translation in English mirrored in the right column. Net Transcripts can transcribe most foreign languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Korean, and a variety of other languages.

Foreign language transcription services are a valuable addition to Limited English Proficiency policies, as more departments seek to continuously improve services and overcome language challenges. Lack of preparation and poor communication in the past have compromised the safety of individuals with minimal English skills, illustrated by incidents when fleeing human trafficking victims were unintentionally returned to their traffickers by officers, or recent events involving the neglect of domestic violence reports filed in a foreign language.

To eliminate inefficiencies caused by language barriers, agencies are encouraged to establish a Language Access Plan to educate staff on the demographics of their community, and to carry resources such as translations of the Miranda warning or “I Speak” cards to help identify the language spoken by a Limited English Proficient individual. The New York City Police Department has published a comprehensive Language Access Plan in the past two years to address the needs of the city’s diverse public, including recognition of the top citywide LEP languages (Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Italian) and policies for training, translating, and obtaining language resources.

For officers responding to situations where language interpretation is needed for immediate communication, RTT Mobile offers a hands-free, portable solution to a live interpreter, called ELSA. Pushing a button on the ELSA device connects the user through a network operating center to a live speaker, who will assist in interpretation of foreign language conversations. ELSA also records conversations for replay, download and transcription.

With Net Transcripts, all translation and transcription is performed by expert translators and typists, and not translation software. The accuracy, attention to detail, and understanding of nuances provided by human translation is far beyond the capabilities of machine translation. Law enforcement agencies are cautioned not to rely on software for the important work of translating foreign language recordings. Learn more about how Net Transcripts can complement agency Language Access Plans with reliable translation and transcription.