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SL Police efforts to bridge language barriers featured in national webcast

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Storm Lake Police Department will share its experience with a multi-lingual community in a New York-based national webcast this month.

On Feb. 24, the Vera Institute of Justice, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office), will present a free, live webcast on strategies to help law enforcement agencies overcome language barriers.

"Bridging the Language Divides: Promising Practices for Law Enforcement" is an hour and a half-long, interactive webcast moderated by Albert Pearsall III, a senior policy analyst at the COPS Office. It features Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser along with leaders from the Lexington, Kentucky and Boise, Idaha police departments to discuss promising practices they use to address language barriers.

These three police agencies - and three others in Oklahoma City, Nashville, and Las Vegas - have been recognized by Vera and the COPS Office for creating programs that enable them to communicate effectively with residents who do not speak or understand English well. They were selected by Vera staff, who used questionnaires, phone interviews, and site visits to choose them from among nearly 200 agencies nationwide.

On the day of the webcast, a companion report, Bridging the Language Divide, will be available on Vera's website. The report identifies promising practices, describes the programs of the six agencies in detail, and includes extensive background material to aid agencies interested in adapting the strategies.

Tim Quinn, the acting director of the COPS Office, said that as law enforcement agencies strive to keep communities safe, they must be able to communicate with residents. "Successful partnerships and problem solving are two essential elements of community policing" he said. "So innovative strategies to communicate with our nation's diverse population are vital. These agencies are leading the way."

Susah Shah, director of Vera's Translating Justice Project, hopes the webcast and report will be practical resources. "Law Enforcement agencies do not have the time or money to spend on programs that may not work," Shah says. "By sharing what has worked well for other agencies, we hope to reduce trial and error."

The webcast will be streamed live on February 24, 2009 at 1 p.m. EST and will allow viewers to submit questions. Register for it at www.vera.org, where the report will also become available that same day.

Storm Lake City Administrator Patti Moore says, "We are proud that the Storm Lake Police Department was chosen as one of the highlighted agencies in this project. It is a tribute to Public Safety Director Mark Prosser and his staff, particularly Community Service Officers Kavan and Vrieze, and the services they provide our diverse community."

Prosser adds, "We are honored and humbled that the Vera Institute and the Department of Justice are recognizing the work the Storm Lake Police Department has done in the realm of serving a multi-lingual community.

"Congratulations goes to our Community Service Officers, Office Staff, and Sworn Officers who work tirelessly in providing professional police services to our multi-lingual and multi-ethnic community," city staff said in a statement.

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