The way in which language services are delivered to the Police has remained largely unchanged for at least a decade. Whilst there has been an increase in the number of outsourced providers managing delivery, the core services of face to face interpreting, telephone interpreting and document translation have remained the same.
Since 2010, unit prices have fallen significantly across all services. Increased pressure on budgets after years of cuts has left some forces spending 50% less on language services than they were 8 years ago. Whilst this would be welcome news to many outside the industry, it isn’t good news for language service providers (LSPs) or the linguists who work with them. There is no end in sight to the cuts, so how do LSPs continue to improve the service delivered to Police forces whilst operating with ever-shrinking revenues?
I believe the answer is to make better use of technology.
The overwhelming majority of Police expenditure on language services is for face to face interpreting. Generally, face to face interpreters assist the Police when conducting interviews under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), and taking statements from victims or witnesses. It’s here that the biggest benefit to the Police would be felt if efficiencies could be made.
For me, the greatest efficiencies could be achieved through the implementation of video interpreting. Video interpreting (or the use of live links) was brought into law with the changes to the PACE Act in April 2017. Video interpreting is not particularly new – the Metropolitan Police have been running a pilot for a few years now, and Sign Language providers have successfully rolled out the technology in other parts of the public sector. However, there has been a delay in the adoption of video interpreting, particularly within the Police.
The main benefit to the Police would be on significant time savings. Rather than waiting a couple of hours for a face to face interpreter to attend (perhaps longer for rarer languages), a video interpreter could virtually attend an interview from anywhere in the country, much more quickly, almost instantaneously.
This would save the officers valuable time in investigating cases, reduce the length of time people are detained in custody, and improve the service delivered to vulnerable victims and witnesses.
In the not-so-distant future, there is also the potential for unit cost savings, as LSPs would no longer have to subsidise interpreter travel to different Police venues, and would be able to guarantee a greater volume of work to each interpreter if they were working from a single site, potentially covering the length and breadth of the country. Providing that the interpreter was situated in a secure environment, and the connection to the Police station met the necessary IT security criteria, I can see no serious objections to implementing this solution.
We have recently launched Capita LiveLINK, which is designed to support the Police in every part of their interaction with the public, from PACE interviews, to emergency 999 calls and operational officers on the beat.