Earlier today, Morning Edition ran a piece on the Phraselator, a new handheld device L.A. police officers are using to issue vocal commands in several different languages. This $2,500 crime-fighting tool allows officers to translate phrases such as "Hands behind your back!" or "Show me which way the suspect ran" on the fly.
"The main idea is for police to use the Phraselator for crowd control. A language barrier played a role in the chaos that ensued last year during the May Day immigration rights march in MacArthur Park, when police in riot gear used batons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds," says Capt. Dennis Kato of the LAPD.
The Phraselator has found its way into many hands — first as a help for the military, then as way for linguists to translate and preserve Native American speech, and now with the LAPD. Kind of cool for one little gizmo.