Juggling investigation and interpretation: The problematic dual role of police officer-interpreter

Luna Filipovic, Suzanne Abad Vergara

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This article is a case study example of problems that arise when a bilingual police officer interrogates a suspect and acts as interpreter at the same time, thus creating a conflict of interest that is difficult to resolve. We shed light on the challenges that both officers and suspects face in multilingual communication when professional interpretation is not available. Our focus is on both language inaccuracies due to language incompetence and communication problems due to lack of impartiality because of the officer-interpreter’s primary commitment to investigation rather than unbiased interpretation. We explain why assuming the two roles, interrogator and interpreter, creates numerous difficulties: linguistic, ethical and, potentially, legal. We also illustrate how the constant switching between the two roles exerts intense cognitive pressure on the officer, which professional interpreters are trained to deal with, but the officer-interpreter is not. The consequence is an enhanced negative impact on accuracy and efficiency in evidence elicitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-79
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage and Law: Linguagem e Direito
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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