Translation is Key to Building Trust Between Police and Immigrant Communities in the U.S - Multilingual Connections

Translation is Key to Building Trust Between Police and Immigrant Communities in the U.S

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We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!


Keeping our communities safe is often a joint effort between police and the public. 

Yet for immigrant communities, a lack of trust and poor relationships with law enforcement is inflamed by communication problems – specifically, the absence of a shared language or interpreters to help bridge the gap.

In these cases, police may struggle to serve and build rapport with non-English-speaking communities. They may also have difficulty doing their jobs, as individuals may be confused, fearful or uncooperative due to language barriers, cultural barriers, and general misunderstandings.  

Utilizing translation services to aid in communication plays a crucial part in restoring trust and strengthening relationships between law enforcement and multilingual immigrant communities today.

Language and Cultural Solutions for Law Enforcement

Law enforcement covers a lot of ground, which is why a comprehensive approach to language and culture varies depending on the needs of victims, witnesses, suspects, applicants, families, etc. Some typical language services may include:

Often these services must be provided not only in the right language but in a specific dialect. Depending on the situation, professionals may interpret/translate in person, on the phone or through written translation.

In situations where accurate translation is crucial, such as during investigations or court proceedings, it is important to use professional translation and transcription services.

Why Native-Language Engagement and Outreach Is Essential

Immigrant groups may distrust and even fear law enforcement for a variety of reasons: they may worry about their immigration status, they may have negative experiences and associations with the police in their home countries, and they may feel uncertain about expressing themselves in English. There’s also a shortage of bilingual police officers who could make communities feel more represented and heard and more confident that the police are truly looking out for the community’s best interests. 

The lack of relationship between law enforcement and immigrant groups may also lead to unproductive behaviors by community members, such as “uneasiness, hesitation to seek help, or outright refusal to cooperate.”

That’s why engagement with immigrant communities in their native languages is so important. Overall, working with a translation agency to support law enforcement interactions and outreach can help:

  • Create/restore trust between law enforcement and local communities
  • Improve communication, engagement, and cooperation
  • Reduce fear and encourage crime reporting
  • Build local relationships to help combat crime 
  • Educate fellow officers on cultural aspects and behaviors

Professional Translation Services Are Vital for Law Enforcement

While recruiting more bilingual police officers is a good start for improving relationships with immigrant communities, it’s not enough. Consider that police may serve several immigrant groups, in addition to Spanish speakers, so officers are not able to communicate in all the languages spoken in their jurisdiction.

Professional translators, interpreters and transcriptionists bring a new level of accuracy and confidence into interactions with non-English speakers. Having an expert translation agency handle these matters can allow police to:

  • Accurately conduct interviews, make reports, follow legal proceedings, and inform community members of their rights in their native language
  • Engage with individuals in not just their language, but their specific dialect
  • Avoid exposing English-speaking children of Spanish-speaking households to details of crimes (especially if heinous)
  • Build trust through professional, confidential services

Translation and transcription of interviews can also protect victims and witnesses in court by capturing verbatim conversations and statements that help them express their problems while in stressful legal situations, when it may be especially difficult to communicate in an unfamiliar language.

By using translation services and implementing other language solutions, law enforcement agencies can better understand the needs and concerns of immigrant communities, as well as more effectively communicate with and provide assistance to these individuals. This way, they can help to build trust and strengthen relationships with these communities, ultimately making their communities safer for everyone.

Bridging Cultural Differences with Immigrant Communities

To create trust with immigrant groups, law enforcement also must play an active role in the community. 

To this end, many police departments are creating outreach programs to strengthen relationships with immigrant communities. Outreach may include visiting businesses and apartment complexes to build connections with residents, as well as starting kid’s clubs, holding Q&A meetings with the public and running social media accounts in Spanish (or other languages). 

Language access should be prioritized at all levels. Police departments should provide translation services during meetings and training sessions, and ensure that all written materials are available in multiple languages.

For all areas of outreach, it’s essential to have properly translated materials not only to communicate well but also to earn the confidence of community members. This is where professional translation is key – a translation agency offers highly trained translators and quality assurance measures, and as a result, avoids mistakes that could potentially weaken this trust.

Get Professional Translation and Transcription Services for Law Enforcement

While building strong relationships between police and the public won’t happen overnight, providing translation services to immigrant communities is a big step in the right direction.

To better serve their multilingual communities, police departments may benefit from choosing a professional translation agency like Multilingual Connections. 

Since 2009, Multilingual Connections has translated approximately 20 million words and transcribed more than 500,000 minutes in 50 languages for hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the U.S. Our law enforcement and legal transcriptionists are highly experienced in the field, trained in legal and law enforcement terminology and procedures, and understand the cultural nuances of translating in a legal context.

Multilingual Connections is a Chicago-based, certified woman-owned agency that provides translation and transcription services for wiretaps, pretext calls, victim interviews, suspect interviews, jail calls, as well as translation of community outreach content, such as flyers, social media posts and websites.

Learn more about our law enforcement translation services here.


Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!