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jackson Police To Begin Using Language Translation Machines

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Jun 2012 04:16pm | comments

For the first time in Mississippi, a police force will be using language translation machines to help officers interact with people who do not speak English. MPB's Jeffrey Hess the Capitol City of Jacksonis the first to use the device.

Jackson police officer Colendula Green demonstrates one of the 10 new language translation machines being put to work in the capitol city.

The device is about the size of a smart phone with a touch screen to select one of nine languages.

It can understand speech or accept written words, and then provide a translation from English into another language or the other way around.

Jackson police Chief Rebecca Coleman says the machines will be a big help in the field since only a handful of the nearly 500 officers on the force speak a language other than English.

"We have distributed the units to all of the precincts and to our special units and our communications division. A supervisor will have access to the translator and can go to the location and provide this instrument to an officer in the field," Coleman said.

Coleman says the machines come pre-equipped with common law enforcement phrases and interactions.

The machines cost 950-dollars each and are being paid for by a federal grant.

About 57-hundred people in Jackson do not speak English.

Bill Chandler with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance says the machines might make crime victims more willing to come forward.

"There are many victims of crime that are fearful of coming forward and think this will make it easier for people to report crimes. We have had many many incidents when people are afraid or they cannot communicate with officers and I think this is a big step," Chandler said.

Chandler says he would like to see more officers on the police force who actually speak languages other than English, but considers the translation machine a positive transition.



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