The Justice Department recently launched a new language initiative after resolving an investigation into the Denver Police Department regarding its discrimination against people not proficient in English.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced an agreement on December 19 with the Denver Police Department to change its policies and training to provide more comprehensive language access to residents interacting with police officers.
To help agencies meet this goal, the DOJ launched its nationwide Law Enforcement Language Access Initiative to provide language assistance to members of the community not proficient in the English language.
“Providing law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to ensure effective and meaningful language access promotes and advances greater safety for limited English proficient people,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a press release. “Through this initiative, we will be able to share these language access best practices and similar resources with law enforcement agencies all across the country.”
Under the new initiative, the DOJ aims to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to provide technical assistance resources and tools to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals and populations within their jurisdictions.
In addition, the initiative aims to help agencies review, update and strengthen their language access policies, plans and training.
The press release also said that U.S. attorney’s offices will conduct training workshops in communities across the country to “increase awareness of language access obligations and encourage widespread adoption of best practices by law enforcement agencies.”
Finally, the initiative plans to strengthen the DOJ’s ties with LEP community stakeholders and populations.
According to the DOJ, the initiative stems from an investigation into the DPD after community members complained about discrimination against Burmese- and Rohingya-speaking LEP residents living in Denver’s East Colfax area.
The investigation found that DPD officers, on a number of occasions, failed to provide adequate language assistance to LEP individuals.
It was also revealed that there were situations where police relied on children, family members and bystanders for language assistance instead of more reliable or objective sources.
Under the new resolution, the DPD agreed to update its language-access policy and plan and to rely on trained translators instead of subjective bystanders or family members when obtaining information.
“This agreement with the Denver Police Department will help police officers do their jobs,” Colorado District Attorney Matthew Kirsch said. “Whether it’s conducting community outreach or arresting individuals accused of breaking the law, ensuring ready access to accurate language services enables officers to serve and protect all members of the community, regardless of English proficiency.”