October 12, 2005

NYPD Speaks in Tongues!

Here's my most recent Newsday story, rescued from un-archived oblivion, just follow the link...

Earlier this year, Officer Jackie O'Keefe resolved a domestic-violence case using nothing more than a flip-top cellular phone.

During the investigation, O'Keefe questioned a battered Chinese immigrant using a portable phone that connected her to interpreters in more than 150 languages - a powerful tool for this diverse neighborhood in Flushing. In 109th Precinct, 63 percent of the residents speak a language other than English at home, according to City Planning statistics.

"It's horrible to see someone crying and hurt when you can't speak back and forth," explained O'Keefe, 26. "I'm a police officer, and I couldn't do anything for her!"

The Chinese immigrant spoke into the cellular phone, and an operator instantly relayed the story back to O'Keefe in English. The abuser was arrested, rescuing the Chinese immigrant and her teenage daughter from years of violent abuse.

In diverse communities like Flushing, victims are often stranded behind the language barrier. As this interpreter-phone becomes a part of police work in the city, officers, interpreters, and city officials are debating how to reach out to these neighborhoods.

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