How Community Interpreting Aids Police Officers and the LEP Community

Community Interpreting helps the police overcome language barriers

Community Interpreting helps the police

While diversity is an essential component of the United States, it can create language barriers in legal matters-- specifically between the police and the community. This type of interpreting service can help alleviate some of the obstacles that occur and assist the police in fostering fair and equitable services for all members of the community.

What is Community Interpreting?

Community interpreting is a type of interpreting service that is utilized in community-based settings and situations. This type of community public service interpreting strives to bring access of public services to communities that are struggling with language barriers. Community interpreters have a unique job.  Not only do they have to be fluent in the target language, but they must also have an understanding in the specific public service that is being addressed while also understanding cultural norms. Many states and civic laws now encourage the use of qualified community interpreters who have, at minimum, attended a community interpreter course and earned a community interpreter certificate.  The use of a qualified community interpreter is highly important when striving to provide just and equal services to all members of a community.

Growing Need for Community Interpreting Between the Police and Community

Community interpreters are extremely important to have in large LEP communities. The consequences of misunderstanding a police officer as a result of a language barrier can be great. The goal is to be able to effectively communicate both sides of a conversation between a police officer and a community member who do not speak the same language. They also help create smoother, more comfortable interactions for everyone involved.  This becomes especially imperative when there is a chance for interactions to become violent or, at the very least, heated and emotional.

Consequences of Not Having a Qualified Community Interpreter

The lack of a community interpreter, who has gone through community interpreter certification, in public service situation can lead to great harm and distress for the parties involved. If interpreters are available, police officers often rely on witnesses or family members -- even children at times -- to interpret the situation. These interviews can lead to a biased interpretation or miscommunication of the situation, which is not ideal for either party. It can also negatively impact the amount of public trust that is placed in the law enforcement agency within the community. Worse, a lack of a qualified community interpreter can lead to a communication collapse and violation of rights. Ultimately, improving communication through public service interpreting can lead to stronger and healthier relationships between the police and the community that they serve.

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