Police Chief

Ask the Chief

“Ask The Chief” is a weekly post allowing readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in the city of Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance our community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs, and the Department in general.

Submit your question to askthe.policechief@ci.red-wing.mn.us. 

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May 06

April 29, 2019 - Translation

Posted on May 6, 2019 at 12:47 PM by Kate Berg

April 29, 2019

Ask the Chief

Q: What do police officers do when you pull over someone who doesn't speak English? 

Image of a smartphone displaying the words "I don't speak English" above the word "Trans

A: Great question, in law enforcement, it is essential to provide fair and consistent service to all members of our community, whether they speak English, a different language, or have a hearing impairment. Effective communications is critical to the protection of an individual’s constitutional rights and personal safety of all involved. We must also be conscious of the sensitivities related to victim privacy, while maintaining transparency with our community.

The Red Wing Police Department has coordinated 24-hour, seven days a week access to “Language Line."  Language Line provides interpreting services through a Minnesota State contract, which is administered through Minnesota IT Services (MNIT). This program allows us access to over 240 different languages. Most recently, I utilized Language Line when I received a voicemail message in Spanish. I was able to record the message, contact Language Line using my access code, and request the language requiring interpretation. A person then came on the phone and listened to the message, providing me an interpretation. This phone call also wanted a callback, so I was able to return the call while the interpreter was still on the line with me, thereby meeting the needs of our caller. Officers on patrol have the same availability, using the speaker function on their squad-equipped cellular phones.

While we have also experimented with interpreter apps on our smart phones, which can help in general contacts, they are still not as accurate as an actual interpreter. For situations that are planned in advance, RWPD has access to a list of interpreters that are vetted in advance for assisting with criminal (suspect, victim, or witness) interviews if needed.

Lastly, RWPD has a policy that provides guidance in communicating with the hearing impaired, and which also requires familiarity with “Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers."


1. Language Line, located online at: https://www.languageline.com/

2. Department of Justice publication, Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers. Located online at: https://www.ada.gov/lawenfcomm.htm

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