Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah and Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced May 18 that the county would provide funding for local Westchester County police departments to access real-time interpreter services. The move will allow law enforcement agencies to better serve residents, witnesses and crime victims in their native languages, officials said.
The services will be offered through a third party, LanguageLine Solutions, which provides on-demand interpreting in more than 240 languages via mobile, video and phone through a team of more than 14,000 professional interpreters. The DA’s office currently has access to services similar to those offered through LanguageLine.
Data shows that language barriers can be a strong disincentive for crime victims or witnesses to approach law enforcement for assistance. Non-English speakers commonly rely on friends or family members to provide translation, but this informal process can be unwieldy and impractical, especially when reporting a crime, according to county law enforcement officials.
“Effective law enforcement is important to maintaining safe and secure communities across Westchester, and part of that is ensuring that our police departments and prosecutors are able to fully engage and communicate with all residents of all backgrounds,” Rocah said in a press release announcing the initiative. She said the funding from the county for interpretive services “will enable police to build better trust with immigrants and others with limited English skills, which will in turn help prevent crime and make our communities stronger and safer.”
Latimer said, “We have a duty to protect our residents, and if that means better communicating with them in their native language, we want to do that. It is difficult for police departments to have officers who speak each language spoken in Westchester County. Access to LanguageLine will enable the officers and the residents to communicate in their native language when interacting with the local police departments.”
He added, “The Westchester County Department of Public Safety has long used LanguageLine and it has proven to be very successful.”
President of the Westchester County Chiefs of Police Association and Scarsdale Chief of Police Andy Matturro noted, “The goal of every Westchester County police officer is to meet the needs of the communities we serve and to make continuing improvements to the services we provide. Enhancing access to all of our officers with translation services through LanguageLine in real time will help us get details from crime victims and witnesses that much faster, which can allow us to solve cases and help victims.”
Under this initiative, the DA’s office and any local police department in need of translation services in any language will contact Westchester County Department of Public Safety Communications Unit, which will connect the department with a translator. This will enable all residents to receive immediate translation services and be able to communicate with the police in the language in which they are most comfortable.