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Police, fire departments use translation gadget

CINCINNATI, Dec. 26, 2009 (AP): The Cincinnati Fire Department, Butler County Sheriff's Department and other agencies in southwest Ohio are using a language translation gadget to tackle interactions with people they may have difficulty understanding.

The $1,200 devices were given to local governments by the Latino Educational Assimilation Resource Network Inc., which uses grants to buy the devices at a discount rate.

``We can buy them so much cheaper than the departments can,'' said William Konop, president of the nonprofit group. ``They can save a tremendous amount of time and money. Police departments can really get bogged down trying to find a translator.''

The gadgets enable users to select statements or questions relating to a variety of situations confronted by law enforcement and emergency personnel. The selected communication is then translated aloud into whichever language the user chooses, from Arabic to Chinese to Russian.

For example, the user can say, '``Miranda warning,``' into the device, and it will read out the famous directions about a suspect's constitutional rights in the chosen language.

Jail personnel in the Butler County Sheriff's Department have used the device, which they've only had for two weeks, to help book someone who spoke Russian, said Lt. Dennis Adams.

``We've been trying to experiment with them and learn what their capabilities are,'' Adams said. ``This can really assist us when getting the basic information we need from people when they're booked here.''

Beyond making the jobs of officers in difficult situations easier, the devices can also help keep them safe.

The gadget has a loudspeaker that enables users to issue instructions in a particular language from far enough away to avoid potential harm.

``In traffic stops, the officer can use the loudspeaker feature to tell the suspects to put their hands on the wheel or to leave the car,'' said Konop. ``Otherwise, they would have to approach the vehicle. It's much safer to be able to stand back and give commands.''

The Colerain Township Police Department will be ushering the translators into use as soon as more officers can be trained on how to use them.

``With the diversity in our community and I-75, I-74 and U.S. 27 running through it,'' said Chief Dan Meloy, ``we have the possibility of interacting with people speaking many different languages. This device will be a big help.''

Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com






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