Tacoma police officers are using a mobile interpreting app that provides access to live, professional interpreters in more than 240 languages. They are using the app to assist during emergency situations.

In an emergency, it is vital to quickly ascertain information. Challenges arise when police officers and citizens do not speak the same language.

Officers say they used neighbors or family members – even children – to interpret in these situations in the past. Now all they have to do is open the LanguageLine interpretation app, press a button for the desired language, and request a video or audio-only interpreter. A professional interpreter comes on the line within seconds.

WATCH: Tacoma Police Are Using an App that Gives Them Access to Interpreters in More Than 240 Languages

LanguageLine has more than 16,000 professional interpreters, with coverage in more than 240 languages.

"A lot of these people are experiencing domestic violence, they may have been sexually assaulted, or they may be some other victim of a crime and we certainly don’t want children to have to interpret for something like this," said Lydia Zepeda of the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

The commission has worked with the Tacoma Police Department to introduce a better way for officers to help people in crisis. This resulted in all officers getting the LanguageLine interpretation app on their mobile devices.

"LanguageLine allows the Tacoma Police Department to offer equitable services to all members of the community," Tacoma Police Officer Wendy Haddow said.

When the app is opened, the user can scroll or use the search feature to find the language they need.

"This app is really, really important,” Zepeda said. 

LEARN MORE: Washington Police Use Interpreter App to Communicate

Zepeda says the new tool gives people who are experiencing an emergency an easier way to be heard and get the help they need. She says it also protects children from having to be involved.

"It minimizes trauma," Zepeda said.

Tacoma is one of the most racially diverse cities in the state of Washington. Nearly 40 percent of individuals living in Tacoma are Latino, African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, multiracial, or Native American.

As of 2019, almost 24 percent of Tacoma residents reported that they were born outside of the United States.

The LanguageLine Mobile Interpreting App

The need for language access has grown unpredictable as our society has become more complex and multilingual. By assisting every individual regardless of their language, culture, or ability, you deliver higher value experiences at the moment of need. The challenge is that these “moments of need” arise with increasing frequency as we become more linguistically diverse. They might surface at a doctor’s office, a school, a bank, or simply on the street.

The LanguageLine mobile app puts the power of nearly 14,000 interpreters in users’ pockets. It makes professional linguists available on-demand with just the touch of a button.

With a cellular signal or WiFi and a smartphone or tablet, the LanguageLine mobile app allows users to instantly reach a video or audio-only interpreter regardless of location.

LanguageLine’s on-demand mobile interpreting is MDM-compatible and features an intuitive interface, making it easy to deploy across largescale and geographically dispersed teams with minimal training.

On-demand mobile interpreting is ideal for individuals and teams that are in the field, including:

  • Service workers
  • Police officers
  • Fire departments
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
  • Utility technicians
  • Visiting nurses
  • Delivery people