Bridging the communications gap

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2005

WOODLAND – &uot;Quieto, no se mueva,&uot; (Freeze, don’t move)!

Spoken from a machine no bigger than a cordless phone, this new electronic device could mean the difference between life and death.

Obtained through the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety Governor’s Crime Commission and Law Enforcement Block Grant, Woodland Police Chief Don Ryan hopes that the ECTACO Speech Guard PD-4 will not only offer an extra layer of protection against potentially volatile situations in the field, but also serve as a tool to bridge the communication gap between English and non-English speaking individuals.

&uot;There is an increasing number of Spanish-speaking people living in this area and being able to communicate effectively with them is extremely important,&uot; Ryan said.

Programmed by the New-York based company with up to three languages of choice according to the needs of the user, the PD-4 can operate for two solid days before needing to be recharged and is capable of translating approximately 4,000 phrases at either the touch of a button or the sound of a voice.

&uot;It has a series of phrases that can be used in different situations like those involving domestic violence, rape, runaway or missing persons, stolen property or vehicle, robbery, motor vehicle accident or speeding,&uot; Ryan said, explaining that the product was developed after the U.S. military commissioned ECTACO last year to produce a translator for service men and women overseas in the Middle East.

&uot;From what I understand their products generated a lot of interest with law enforcement and security companies as well as with fire departments, emergency rooms and hospitals,&uot; he said.

The company originally gained its reputation from its experience in designing and developing electronic dictionaries and translators in over 50 languages.

Ryan said although the machine is not currently capable of translating responses from other languages into English, it could assist him in dispersing information and asking questions.

&uot;You never know when you might need to use it,&uot; said Ryan. &uot;There could be an accident tomorrow involving a Hispanic family and I would hate to be in a position where I couldn’t ask them where they were hurt and help them get the help they needed. Nothing is perfect, but if it helps even one person, it’s worth it,&uot; he said.

The $11,111.11 grant also allowed Ryan to purchase a 15′ spike system, an X26 Taser with holster and replacement air cartridges, Remington 870 shotgun and mount, 40-caliber cougar police pistol, tactical outer carrier vest with miscellaneous pouches, tactical weapon care system, locking holster, duty belt E-Z slide system and belt keepers, hand cuffs and case, aerosol case, magazine case, a Rolatape measuring device, latent print kit, evidence supply storage kit, eight new traffic cones, a digital camera, a five watt two-way radio, an in-cab steel modular console system, millennium gas mask biological kit, a set of smart flashers for inside the grill of the police car and a Grandmaster Z-Tool kit system.

In addition to the translator, Ryan said he was excited about having an opportunity to utilize the new equipment.

&uot;It’s better to have what you need than need what you don’t have,&uot; he said.

&uot;The digital camera, for example, is great for documenting accident or crime scene information, while having the taser at your disposal beats getting beat up. They’re just good assets,&uot; he said.

Previous grants allowed Ryan to obtain an in-car camera, mobile data terminal and a program known as &uot;Police-pak,&uot; which serves as a database to transfer information between the laptop and office computer to enhance case management.

He was also able to secure high tech surveillance equipment for his department last February, from an Army grant.

&uot;We’re pretty modernized for a small town,&uot; said Ryan, &uot;but the grants are there for anyone who applies.&uot;

Ryan added that he hoped other departments would consider getting the translator. &uot;I think every department should have at least one. I’m anxious to see how it turns out.&uot;

With the remaining funds, Ryan hopes to purchase a GPS receiver and some new uniforms.