Police departments in culturally diverse communities need the ability to communicate effectively with crime victims. Two Curry professors are helping one local city figure out how to do just that.
The Brockton Police Department (BPD) partnered with Dr. Rebecca Kendall and Dr. Adam Stearn of Curry’s Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, and were awarded a six-month grant last March to research best practices in implementing and sustaining a Language Assistance Plan (LAP). The grant was awarded by the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the use of nonpartisan research and analysis to inform criminal and juvenile justice decision making. Kendall and Stearn presented their findings to the BPD in September.
English is not the first language for 44.3% of Brockton’s residents and in 2019, the city had the state’s 4th highest violent crime rate. The primary goals of the Curry/BPD partnership were to “assess the languages spoken in Brockton, with a focus on victims of crime” and “construct a framework of promising practices for the BPD to follow in building a Victim Assistance Program (VAP) with robust” language services.
The JRSA grant allowed the two researchers to conduct a multi-stage, mixed methods research process. As they began their research, they realized that the BPD needed a language program for the whole department, not just the victims program, and scaled their recommendations accordingly.
“The report provides a menu of options and best practices. There is no one right choice,” said Dr. Kendall. “We outline common approaches, with both the benefits and drawbacks.”
Their three main recommendations, not mutually exclusive, were to hire bi-lingual employees; to hire professional interpreters (either on staff or outsourced); and to look at technology options, such as translation devices and software.
Kendall and Stearn worked closely with Michelle St. James, BPD’s grant coordinator and community liaison, who initially reached out to Curry. Dr. Kendall said, “we see potential for further involvement with the BPD for our students with either possible research projects or internships.” Dr. Kendall, who teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate level, was recently appointed the internship liaison for the Criminal Justice Department. Dr. Stern is chair of the master’s program, in which many students are working law enforcement professionals, including from BPD.