Lowell City Council Seeks Translation Services at Police Department, Town Hall – Lowell Sun

LOWELL – LanguageLine, an on-demand translation service, may soon arrive at the Police Department and Town Hall.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, councilor Rita Mercier proposed that city manager Eileen Donoghue find ways to implement the service. The motion was underscored by the experiences of Yun-Ju Choi, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Acre.

Choi said she is an advocate for access to languages ​​and that the language barrier is something she experienced firsthand within her own family.

“We often hear people say, ‘If you live in this country, you should learn to speak the language,’ Choi said. “Learning a new language for adults who work hard to make ends meet and support their families is not always their priority.”

Choi’s mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer and spent 28 days at Tufts Medical Center. She then spent three months receiving radiation therapy in the greater Boston area. Without language services, Choi isn’t sure if her mother would be there 40 years later.

Several years ago, Choi found herself at the town hall and a woman approached her speaking Khmer. Although Choi does not speak Khmer, she was able to find help from one of the Coalition for a Better Acre employees.

Most recently, Choi said she was doing an interview with one of the Coalition for a Better Acre Resident Services Coordinators. A resident was turned away at the police station because there was no one who spoke Spanish at the time. The Resident Services Coordinator helped provide the necessary translation, but it left a lasting impression.

Spanish and Khmer are common languages ​​in Lowell.

Mercier had heard similar stories from residents. Recently, Mercier said he heard of a woman who went to the police station on Arcand Drive, but was turned away with no translation services available.

Mercier said she was confident in the capabilities of the police, but wanted them to have all the tools they needed to do their jobs. Using a service like LanguageLine could help build trust within the community, she said.

“Let’s think a little more about the situation. What if this woman’s problem was domestic violence in the home? With a lack of communication and no help, and no choice but to come home? Things could have been much worse. This motion before us could save a life, ”said Mercier.

Councilor Sokhary Chau said that in Lowell public schools there were 60 to 70 different languages ​​spoken. He thinks there are a lot of citizens in the city who would benefit from the service. Lowell Public Schools use Lionbridge, a similar service.

Choi said Lowell General Hospital, Lowell Community Health Center and several nonprofits across town were using translation services. Across the city, 70 different languages ​​are spoken, Choi said.

“More of our diverse residents will be able to access services, pay their taxes, get copies of social security cards, get married, get permits to renovate their homes, report a theft and all (other) important services provided by the city. , ”Choi said.

Later in the meeting, Councilors received a response to Councilor Vesna Nuon’s motion of November 23. At that meeting, Nuon asked the police department to investigate the possibilities of grants to provide security cameras to businesses, nonprofits and religious organizations.

In a note to city council, Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson said there was no law enforcement grant available to do so. However, he said the ministry will continue to seek potential funding opportunities.

The police department had considered creating a registry to access cameras owned by citizens, businesses, nonprofits and religious organizations, however, comments were “mixed,” Richardson said.

Comments focused on public confidentiality and cooperation. However, through their research, they learned that there was an application offered by Ring called “Neighbors”, allowing users to upload photos and videos. Users can download even if they have cameras made by other manufacturers and Lowell Police can only access content with permission.

At the meeting, Richardson said people are reluctant to sign something over which they have no control and would rather hear from an officer directly during an investigation.

However, Richardson said members of the public have cooperated with police by providing videos when needed.

Connie A. Bailey