Police Dept. Introduces Sign-Language Video Technology

Police officers are now able to link hearing- and speech-impaired residents to sign-language interpreters in real time, though a tablet-based video feed, to help officers more quickly and effectively communicate in emergency situations.

The Police Department introduced the technology, known as video remote interpreting (VRI), in late January, said Acting Chief Brian Solinsky. All South Pasadena patrol cars now have the VRI capability, which can be accessed at all times.

“This is an entirely new way for our officers to communicate with residents who use sign language,” Solinsky said. “Writing on paper takes precious time that we may not have in an emergency situation.”

South Pasadena is one of the first cities in Los Angeles County to adopt such a system, joining New York, Cleveland, Houston and several others nationwide.

The new technology utilizes a mobile computer tablet and cellular service to connect directly to sign-language interpreters through a live video and audio feed. The interpreter translates from sign language to spoken word, and vice versa, in real time.

The technology will be used exclusively in the field for emergency situations, Solinsky said, and does not replace the use of live interpreters for interviews.

The City has contracted with California-based Purple Communications, which provides the live interpreting service at a cost of about $300 a year.