Interpreting or other forms of language support? Experiences and decision-making among response and community police officers in Scotland


  • Eloisa Monteoliva-Garcia Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh


Police officers, interpreting, language support, decision-making


This study engages in research of interpreting as a socially-situated practice and explores two main foci: police officers’ experiences of interpreting and the factors shaping decision-making regarding the means of language support they use to communicate with non-native speakers of English. Given its pivotal role in any investigation, most police interpreting research has focused on investigative interviews. The work carried out by police officers and interpreters in police settings involves a wide range of communicative scenarios inside and outside the police station. Drawing on a thematic analysis of data gathered through focus groups, this study explores police officers’ experiences in interacting with non-native speakers of English across the various scenarios that are part of community and response officers’ day-to-day operations, and examines the factors shaping officers’ decision to book an interpreter or to resort to other means to communicate when a language barrier is identified. Officers highlighted the key role of interpreters in enabling communication, issues related to practicalities when booking an interpreter, and reported on the difficulties associated with telephone interpreting. The discussions illustrate the range of means used by police officers while on duty, the impact of linguistic and non-linguistic factors on the decision-making process, such as the urgency of a given situation, and the findings corroborate the complexity of assessing proficiency. Whereas, overall, officers showed a high degree of awareness of language and communication aspects, the need for more informed guidance on the potential risks of different types of solutions emerged as a pattern in the discussions.