Interpreters To Assist Red Bank Police

first_imgMcConnell said his department contacted the officer who runs the program in that Texas city. Most of the volunteers were at the borough council meeting July 24 when the program was unveiled. Boris Kofman, a native of Belarus whose first language is Russian, said he had heard about the interpreter program through Triggiano. “This was something that we started working on back in January,” said councilwoman and police commissioner Kate Triggiano, who brought the idea to Red Bank. “I believe this might be the first program of its type in the state.” “They would never becalled out to a scene that’snot secured,” said police Lt.Juan Sardo, who oversees theprogram. “We won’t put themin jeopardy in that way. Theywill not be interviewing anysuspects in any crimes.” “So since I have that skill,I felt it’s my responsibility tohelp,” he said. “And he kind of helped us and guided us through how they set it up,” McConnell said. The police department has had a policy to first turn to one of its bilingual officers on duty to aid in translation; police also can use an interpreter service, called language line, via telephone. The volunteers would supplement that in any police-involved situation where authorities cannot communicate in English with members of the public. As with Kofman and Ortega, Red Bank is also Sardo’s second home. Originally from Venezuela, he came to the United States in 1979 when he was 6 years old, unable to speak English. Red Bank, where he grew up, was a different placethen. He remembered therewere a few Puerto Ricanfamilies at the time. That’sall changed, however. RED BANK – The Red Bank Police Department has a group of bilingual borough residents serving as volunteer interpreters to aid authorities when they deal with members of the public who do not speak English. Communicators on patrol, based on a similar program used by police in Houston, is made up of eight volunteers: seven Spanish speakers and one Russian speaker. They had to go through a background check and training and will be available to police on a round-the-clock basis. By Philip Sean Curran Red Bank police Chief Darren McConnell said he sees the volunteers also helping with community outreach, like with pedestrian bicycle safety. center_img “And like many of the residents that make up the demographics of Red Bank, I had to adapt to a new culture and language,” he said. Sardo, who joined the police department in 1997, recalled that he used to get calls from fellow officers, on his days off, to interpret for them. Today, the department has five Spanish-speaking officers, Sardo said. The borough said it is looking to grow the program to have volunteers who speak other languages or are fluentin American Sign Language. “I feel the need to helpmy community out,” saidCarla Ortega, a volunteeroriginally from Mexico.“If I’m needed, I feel like Ishould be able to help.” When he was still on the road as a police officer, McConnell took Spanish classes at Brookdale Community College to help him at work. “As the Spanish community grew in Red Bank, it became very difficult for us to communicate, even to get through minor calls like traffic stops and first aid calls and things like that, because we didn’t have many Spanish-speaking officers,” he said. “It was constantly an impediment.” Hispanics or Latinos make up 36.7 percent of the borough’s population of roughly 12,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Houston, the city Red Bank modeled its program after, introduced its communicators on patrol program last July, said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department. In that department, volunteers must provide at least four hours of service per shift, be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and be fluent in English and either Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic or Urdu/Hindi, among other criteria. Mayor Pasquale Menna, born in Italy, shared at the council meeting how he came to America as an immigrant who could not speak English. He said the interpreter program is one that the borough has never had. Police made clear that interpreters would not ride along with officers on patrol duty, interview criminal suspects or be put in harm’s way. “And many municipalities, I’m sure, have never even thought of doing it,” he said.last_img

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