Emergency officials working to alleviate language barrier problem

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-During Sunday's press conference, Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said this case was particularly difficult because of the language barrier during the investigation.

E911 and Jonesboro Police had trouble understanding some of the witnesses and victims.

"We received the 911 call from a male subject appeared to be Hispanic, signs of panic in his voice, we had problems getting locations," said E911 director, Jeff Presley.

He said the caller ran to a nearby business so the business owner could relay what he was saying.

"When people are in panic, it's a true emergency they dial 911, it's hard to understand anybody," Presley said. "We have a lot of different people around here with different languages things like that, we encounter it from time to time."

Presley said he wasn't able to get an address from the caller so he had to send police in blind.

"We don't want to send our first responders and police into a zone where they are going to be in danger," he said.

But Presley said they can't prepare for every language.

"We do have a large Hispanic base, our dispatchers have taken emergency Spanish for 911, we do have folks we can call to help us interpret," he said Region 8 News. "He say we have a lot of different people from different countries and things in this area."

Sgt. Doug Formon with Jonesboro Police Department said when police arrived on the scene they had a hard time getting a statement from the witnesses.

"Emotions are high and we all want to immediately go to our native tongue whenever we get excited," he said. "I know even though there were millions of folks on the scene there that was bilingual, they felt more comfortable speaking in Spanish."

And during the interviews, Formon said they had to reach out to other resources.

"There's a Hispanic Center that's here, we have several officers, 3 or 4 officers who are fluent in Spanish who come in and help us do the interviews," he said.

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