Ask the Chief: Communication key to protecting rights
"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.
Submit your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What do police officers do when you pull over someone who doesn't speak English?
A: Great question. In law enforcement it is essential to provide fair and consistent service to all members of our community, whether they speak English, a different language, or has a hearing impairment.
Effective communication is critical to the protection of individual's constitutional rights and personal safety of all involved. We also must be conscious of the sensitivities related to victim privacy, while maintaining transparency with our community.
The Red Wing Police Department has coordinated 24 hour, seven days a week access to Language Line. Language Line provides interpreting services through a Minnesota State contract, which is administered through Minnesota IT Services or MNIT. This program allows us access to over 240 different languages.
Most recently I utilized Language Line when I received a voicemail message in Spanish. I was able to record the message, contact Language Line, using my access code and requesting the language requiring interpretation. A person then came on the phone and listened to the message, providing me an interpretation.
This phone call also wanted a callback, so I was able to return the call while the interpreter was still on the line with me, thereby meeting the needs of our caller. Officers on patrol have the same availability, using the speaker function on their squad equipped cellular phones.
We have also experimented with interpreter apps on our smartphones, which can help in general contacts, they are still not as accurate as an actual interpreter. For situations that are planned in advance, RWPD has access to a list of interpreters that are vetted in advance for assisting with criminal (suspect, victim or witness) interviews if needed.
Lastly, RWPD has a policy that provides guidance in communicating with the hearing impaired, which also requires familiarity with "Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers."
1. Language Line, located online at: https://www.languageline.com/
2. Department of Justice publication, Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers. Located online at: https://www.ada.gov/lawenfcomm.htm