From dentists turned writers to engineers turned translators, from chefs and professors to actors and wine connoisseurs, Getting Candid has juxtaposed language and globalisation with a variety of fields in these last 15 months. And it is now time to venture into the world of law enforcement to find out how language can act as both a barrier and a saviour in crime solving and prevention.
Getting candid with us this month is DSP Rajendra Kadam who gives us an insight on how language services can play a decisive role in crime solving.
I was pleasantly surprised to read in one of the archived online news articles that Pune Police took short courses in Urdu in 2013. Could you tell us how and why this was an important step?
The Police force knowing Urdu will go a long way in fighting and preventing communal violence. It isn’t very rare to find Urdu hoardings and pamphlets that intentionally or unintentionally cause unrest in certain communities. Sometimes, matters can get out of hand and the authorities need to step in. Now just like being able to read Marathi and Hindi helps us in a state like Maharashtra, knowing a little bit of Urdu will make things easier as well.
Would you agree that the introduction of this Urdu course highlights just how important languages can be in crime solving?
Certainly, I agree. Crime solving and prevention and law enforcement is about dealing with a wide range of people which includes a lot of direct or indirect communication. And as we all know, communication without language is virtually impossible.
So would you say that communication skills in the regional language are of paramount importance to authorities?
Absolutely. Hindi and English are important too as these languages help in reaching out to more people. And communication skills are so important that we have timely courses here at the CID office to ensure that everyone working here faces no problems when it comes to communication.
How important a role do language services like translation and interpretation play in this field according to you?
Most cases we deal with can be solved with the help of our existing knowledge of Marathi, Hindi and English. But in some cases, language can become a great barrier in which case we need to include interpreters to help us communicate with the victim or the suspect. In such cases, language services play an extremely pivotal role because like I already said, communication is key to be able to solve and prevent crime. We have also had instances where suspects exploit this language barrier which can be a big problem.
Have you had any experience that you can share with our readers about how language services have helped you solve a particular case?
I actually have a very interesting experience. A few years back, two young men robbed a man after he withdrew cash from a bank in Pune. One of them was caught by the police and was brought in for interrogation. It turned out he only spoke Telegu and couldn’t manage to answers our questions. An interpreter helped us communicate and I got the suspect to call his family back in a village in Andhra Pradesh so as to be able to do a background check. His mother spoke to me in Hindi and told me how he must have wandered off unknowingly in the city. Then, she requested to speak to him and I allowed. Fortunately, the call was being recorded. So later when we asked the translator to translate the conversation between the suspect and his mother, we found out that she assured to get him out on bail with the help of a lawyer. Further investigation revealed that the entire community from that village was engaged in robbing people in the city. In the absence of accurate language services, putting a stop to these robberies would have been extremely difficult.
So is there a system in place to counter linguistic problems in law enforcement? For example, do courts and other law enforcement agencies employ language professionals?
Yes there is a system. We can get documents translated from the Directorate of Languages but the courts and individual agencies don’t employ translators yet. They also seek the help of volunteers and private companies at times.
As a parting shot, do you have any languages on your agenda?
I speak Marathi, Hindi, English and Konkani. If and when I get the time, I would love to learn a little bit of Kannada. I hail from the city of Karwar in Karnataka and I think I should be able to communicate effectively in Kannada. And it goes without saying that the language will help me professionally as well.