WHITE PLAINS, NY — May 19, 2021 — Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah and Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced today that the County will provide funding for local Westchester County police departments to access real-time interpreter services through Language Line. The move will allow law enforcement agencies to better serve residents, witnesses and crime victims in their native languages.
Language Line 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 Language Line.
According to statistics, language barrier can be a strong disincentive for crime victims or witnesses to approach law enforcement for assistance. Non-English-speakers commonly rely on friends of family members to provide translation, but this informal process can be unwieldy and impractical, especially when reporting a crime.
Rocah said: “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 background. This generous support from the County 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 Language Line will enable the officers and the residents to communicate in their native language when interacting with the local police departments. The Westchester County Department of Public Safety has long used Language Line and it has proven to be very successful.”
Under this initiative, the DA’s Office and any local police department in need of translation services in any language will contact the 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.
Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said: “The County Police is fortunate to have multiple officers who speak a second language and we make them available often to assist municipal police departments in Westchester with incidents and investigations.
Language Line is also an invaluable service that we utilize to communicate promptly and effectively with persons who have been a victim of a crime or have a need for police assistance. A language barrier should never prevent anyone from getting the help or service they need.”
President of the Westchester County Chiefs of Police Association & Scarsdale Chief of Police Andy Matturro said: “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 Language Line 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.”
Asian American Advisory Board Co-Chair Marjorie Hsu said: “I applaud Westchester County providing on-demand interpreters through Language Line to our local police departments. Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic in New York and the U.S.; and language access has long been a significant challenge for new immigrants. There are 2300 living languages in Asia, and seven major dialects of the Chinese language. Providing our public safety staff with language assistance will greatly improve Asian American new immigrants’ sense of security and assimilation in Westchester.”
Islamic Center of New Rochelle Imam Mohammed Shaffieq Chace said: “Being able to speak in your native language, whether it’s Hindi, Urdu, Arabic or another, will greatly help people that need to interact with the police. An interpreter in real-time takes the burden off of the victim seeking support from authorities, and instead helps them to share their experience in a more direct way with less pressure and stress.”
Community Resource Center Executive Director Jirandy Martinez, MPA, said: “This is a wonderful and much needed addition to our police departments. Non-English speakers will have an easier time expressing themselves and their concerns to law enforcement. It will not only improve communications between the groups, but can also have a positive impact on relationships within the community.”
Thomas H. Slater Center Haitian Resource Center Director Myrlene Chauvette said: “The priority for the victim of a crime should be to get to the police and report the situation as soon as possible, and not to waste time finding a relative or friend who can accompany them to translate the circumstances because they are not fluent English speakers. This is a great enhancement to all Westchester residents.”
OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates Vice President of the Hudson Valley Chapter Bob Chao said: “This is a major improvement to the way that law enforcement works with non-English speaking residents. It can help cases to come together more quickly, better supporting victims and moving the process closer to justice.”
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Contact: Dan Weiller | Director of Communications | Office of Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah