Featured Article: Solving Communication Issues with Interpretation

Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Issue: Summer 2022

An Officer pulls a car over and not only wonders what awaits them at the window…buts wonders if they will be able to communicate with the person at the window. Never before has communication been such a topic of discussion. Never before has cultural and disability diversity been so apparent…and social media been so widely used. You don’t want mistakes to be made; not only for your own professional livelihood, but also because you have a duty to uphold. This is the daily crossroads of a police officer on the street. This is also the challenge of the Administration of the Public Safety system. How do you comply with regulations and keep everyone safe?

Safety and communication are not just issues for the Officer on the street. There are communication barriers in jails, at the front desk, and in the call centers. Communication happens everywhere; it is inescapable. Those who meet the call to serve people will face a communication issue at some point in their career; whether it is a person with a disability, a person with a hearing loss, or a person who does not speak English. What you choose to do when this situation presents itself, is what makes you successful or not. What should you do? What can you do?

Solving Communication Issues Key Population Facts

  • Interpretation is for verbal communication, and Translation is for written communication
  • 30 million people in the U.S. have a hearing loss and 5 to 10% of them are profoundly deaf (meaning they are Sign Language users)
  • Sign Language is NOT English in motion
  • Deafness is never the problem in the eyes of the Deaf Community. The lack of awareness of the Deaf and their ways and communication needs is the obstacle to an efficient interaction.
  • Deaf, hard of hearing people, and low English people, do not have a sticker on their license plates. These are “invisible” issues, and you must learn “cues” to recognize persons with Deafness, hearing loss and low English issues.
  • 5 million people in the U.S. have Low English Proficiency (LEP).
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers the Deaf and hard of hearing and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act covers people with low English proficiency.
Graphic Description: Key Population Facts 30 million people have hearing loss, 5-10% are profoundly deaf which means they use sign language, 25.5 million people are low-English speaking. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers the Deaf and hard of hearing and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act covers people with low English proficiency

How Organizations Benefit from Video Remote Interpreting Services


  • Fast Response for Urgent Situations – VRI allows you to provide a fast response for both spoken languages and deaf and hard-of-hearing clients/patients. When the need for communication is urgent, VRI provides an interpreter response in seconds.
  • On-Demand Interpreting Solution - On-demand support means having access to professional interpreters 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year.
  • Enhanced Accuracy – The visual support associated with Video Remote Interpreting can provide enhanced accuracy for spoken language over using OPI. The ability of the Interpreter to see body language, and the ability of the LEP to see the Interpreter’s body language. Also, hearing loss crosses all boundaries, perhaps the LEP has a hearing loss as well, and needs to read the lips of the Interpreter to fully understand them.
  • Cost-Effective – Video remote interpretation fills the gap between over-the-phone and on-site interpretation services. Conventional on-site interpreting typically requires at least a two-hour minimum charge and possibly mileage and travel charges. VRI services can help optimize your interpretation budget while adding the benefit of visual support. When searching for a VRI provider, be sure to ask if there are hourly minimums associated with VRI technology. Additionally, some services require you to rent or purchase devices.

Benefits for Law Enforcement

Benefits of video and phone interpreting for your department:

  • Demonstrates your desire to engage and work with disabled and minority communities
  • Protects your department legally (you complied with laws requiring you to be accessible)
  • Increases your efficiency by better understanding the communities you serve
  • Protects your cases from being dismissed due to ineffective communication or non-compliance with the ADA or Title VI.


VRI opi  Infographic

Key Features to look for in a virtual interpreting provider:

  • Certified Interpreters
  • Interpreters trained to work in the legal setting
  • Tech support
  • Wide selection of languages to choose from
  • 24/7 Availability
  • No special equipment
  • No extra monthly or set-up fees
  • Experience with Law Enforcement

While face-to-face interpreting will always have its place in law enforcement, Video and Phone interpreting are excellent tools to speed communication easily and inexpensively. They enable your department to be compliant with the ADA and Title VI as well as protect your department legally. Technology is available, and citizens are becoming more accustomed to using it every day. It is time to become fully accessible.

Download the full article

To read the full Summer 2022 article - visit the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police webpage.


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Global specializes in on-site, video and phone interpreting for law enforcement.