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Lost in Translation: Overcoming Language Barriers with Multilingual Digital Evidence Management Software

Language barriers are impacting the effectiveness of law enforcement. Learn how digital evidence management software can help combat these barriers.
by Rafey Iqbal Rahman Updated on December 8, 2023

You might wonder what role digital evidence management software plays in breaking down language barriers. Well, with 350+ languages spoken in the US, relying on civilian translators or conducting police interpreter training can be both time-consuming and costly.

“This sort of criminality will not be tolerated … it puts the criminal justice system at risk.” These are the words of the late Leicestershire’s Chief Constable Simon Cole.

Cole made these remarks after it was identified that a woman forged documents for registering as a police interpreter.

Now, do you see the problem? Not only is reliance on the methods mentioned above far from foolproof, but it also dilutes the holy grail of law enforcement – to provide speedy justice and close cases faster.

The solution? Enter a multilingual law enforcement digital evidence management system. An advanced digital evidence management system can help combat language barriers in today’s increasingly diverse world that blurs the line between borders – both at the national and the international level.

In this blog, we will explore the challenges posed by language barriers in the law enforcement landscape, the immediate need to overcome them, and how a robust digital evidence management solution proves to be a reliable law enforcement companion in tackling the said issue.

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Overcoming Language Barriers with Digital Evidence Management Software

Before we dive further into how multilingual digital evidence management software aids law enforcement entities in lowering the guard of language barriers, it would be only fair to identify the challenges posed by language barriers in the realm of law enforcement first.

The-Role-of-Automatic-Translations-in-Multilingual-DEMS

Following are the five issues that emerge because of language barriers and are frequently faced by law enforcement entities as well as relevant stakeholders, including victims:

1. Wrongful Arrests

In 2022, the University of Colorado Boulder published a study on why wrongful convictions occur. Among the five leading factors identified, false confessions by victims were among the top 2 reasons, next to eyewitness misidentification.

Another study published in the UCLA Law Review revealed that around 40% of Latinx victims falsely confessed to crimes they never committed because they could not fully understand spoken English. Are you able to connect the dots now?

2. Unreported Crimes

According to the latest California Immigrant Data Portal data, only 3.4 hate crimes were reported to law enforcement entities in 2020 — quite a surprising statistic for a state with a large population of more than 39 million individuals.

What could be the reason for such a low crime rate in the most populous US state? The answer lies in hate crimes never being reported. This begs the question: why do victims continue to suffer in silence and fear when they can report the crime?

Well, hate crimes, including both physical and verbal assaults, go unreported because of language barriers. Carmelyn Malalis, Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, holds the same view.

3. Possible Release of Criminals

“You have the right to remain silent.”

Law enforcement officers will utter these words immediately after arresting a suspect. This is known as the Miranda Warning, and these rights are given to suspects by the Fifth Amendment.

Can anyone be handcuffed without being read their rights? No. So, what would happen if a police officer arrested a Hispanic (or any other LEP individual) suspect? In that case, the officer must quote Miranda Rights in the suspect’s native language.

If the law enforcement officer fails to do so, there is a fair chance that the case will get dismissed, possibly leading to the release of a potentially violent criminal.

4. Poor Communication with Victims

If not mitigated sooner, language barriers can hinder the justice process. In fact, they already have.

As per the 2023 Victim’s Voices and Experiences in Response and Investigation report, law enforcers expressed concerns over differences in communication between officers and victims.

The reported concerns included the loss of digital and physical evidence due to the delay in the investigative process. Even worse, the case can be retracted due to the victim withdrawing from the case.

5. Discomfort for VAWG Victims

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is witnessing an unprecedented rise in unreported incidents, and language barriers are one of the several factors to blame for the surge.

A 2023 report on violence against women reveals that female victims were discriminated against, thus hindering the provision of justice for the crimes committed against them.

Women giving their statements to the police in their native language were either left unattended, or they were assigned a male interpreter, putting them in a visibly uncomfortable situation.

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Believe us or not, the challenges discussed above are only the tip of the iceberg. Language barriers are deeply rooted in delaying (or denying) justice to victims and sabotaging law enforcement efficiency and community policing.

Why should Law Enforcement Agencies overcome Language Barriers?

It is high time that law enforcement agencies, primarily police departments, invest significant efforts in overcoming language barriers to ensure speedy justice.

The importance of breaking down language barriers can be realized because there is a legal provision regarding this, and rightly so.

The Executive Order 13166 (EO 13166), signed by President Clinton, mandated law enforcement agencies to provide meaningful access to services for LEP individuals.

Apart from the legal obligation, mitigating language barriers could improve trust and relationship between police departments and the public. This will eventually translate (no pun intended) to more crimes being reported and more criminals being brought to book.

How Digital Evidence Management Software Help Overcome Language Barriers?

Digital evidence management software can help law enforcement agencies break down language barriers in the following five ways:

1. Translating Victim Statements

Instead of depending on interpreters, law enforcement officers can leverage police evidence management software to automatically translate statements given by case victims in their native language into another language (let’s say English).

2. Providing Access to Legal Resources

Police departments can apply the principles of secure law enforcement digital evidence management to host legal resources securely on a multilingual platform that allows LEP individuals to seek legal help and know their rights in their native language.

3. Catering to Deaf Victims

Law enforcement agencies can ensure that they cater to the needs of deaf victims by leveraging digital evidence management software to host 508-compliant digital content that proves to be of great help to those with hearing impairment.

4. Analyzing Evidence Efficiently

In the case of non-English-speaking law enforcement officers, digital evidence management software can help them understand video and audio-based evidence in an efficient, seamless manner via automatic translation capability.

5. Expediting Judicial Process

Law enforcement agencies can use police evidence management software to expedite the judicial process by creating legal transcripts in languages other than English, providing speedy justice.

How VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management Systems Overcomes Language Barriers?

VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) helps law enforcement agencies in breaking down language barriers by:

  • Offering a secure, CJIS-compliant law enforcement evidence management software
  • Automatically translating video recordings and audio-based digital evidence in 40+ languages
  • Making legal resources available to all with a centralized police evidence management platform
  • Automatically creating legal transcripts for digital evidence admissibility in the court of law
  • Ensuring the integrity of digital evidence with tamper detection and automated chain of custody

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Breaking Down Language Barriers with Digital Evidence Management

Despite the wave of globalization and the increased embracement of diversity and inclusion, language barriers persist in the law enforcement paradigm.

Not only do they obstruct justice, but they are also a significant contributor to the widening public trust gap.

Advanced digital evidence management software, like VIDIZMO DEMS, for instance, can aid law enforcement agencies in overcoming language barriers by effectively managing digital evidence.

Feeling charged up to face the language barriers challenges head-on? Sign up for a 7-day free trial of the leading AI-powered police evidence management software.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can communication barriers affect the police?

Communication barriers affect the police by slowing the investigative process, non-compliance with laws and regulations that govern the rights of LEP suspects and individuals, and getting prone to being tried in a court of law.

What is a language barrier in policing?

Language barrier in policing includes but is not limited to preventing victims who are either less proficient in the English language or suffer from hearing impairment from reporting crimes committed against them. It also includes limiting access to legal aid that could help these victims seek justice faster.

How can law enforcement agencies overcome linguistic barriers?

Law enforcement agencies can use digital evidence management software to overcome linguistic barriers by providing a centralized platform to immigrant and LEP victims and automatically translating their statements into their preferred language, thanks to the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

What are the police required to do if someone does not speak English?

Police should invest in a digital evidence management system to automatically translate digital evidence, including victim and witness statements provided in their native languages, and offer a multilingual platform to non-English speakers.

What is LEP compliance?

The LEP compliance mandates law enforcement agencies to provide meaningful access to resources originally available in English in the native languages of LEP individuals.

Posted by Rafey Iqbal Rahman

Rafey is an Associate Product Marketing Analyst at VIDIZMO and holds expertise in redaction and digital evidence management technologies. He actively researches tech industries to keep up with the trends. For any queries, feel free to reach out to websales@vidizmo.com

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