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Justice Department Announces Memorandum of Agreement with Town of Mattawa, Washington, and Mattawa Police Department

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today announced a Memorandum of Agreement under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, with the town of Mattawa, Wash., and the Mattawa Police Department (MPD). The memorandum and accompanying language assistance plan reflect the efforts of the town’s mayor, police chief, legal counsel, and town council to ensure that the town and the MPD take reasonable steps to provide limited English proficient (LEP) persons with meaningful access to town and MPD services.

Today’s agreement is the first such agreement of its kind in the state of Washington and resolves two complaints alleging that the town and the MPD violated Title VI and the Safe Streets Act by failing to provide meaningful access to LEP victims of domestic violence, and thereby discriminating on the basis of national origin.

Town officials worked diligently to hire interpreters and bilingual staff, and began implementing measures to ensure that LEP persons had access to town services before an agreement was reached.

The 2000 census shows that the town of Mattawa has a total population of 2,609, of whom 2,343 (89.8 percent) are Hispanic persons. In addition, the 2000 Census shows that 83 percent of the town’s Hispanic residents over the age of 18 speak English less than “very well,” and are thus considered LEP. The memorandum of agreement and language assistance plan provide a framework to ensure that the town’s numerous LEP residents have meaningful access to town services.

Under the agreement, the town and MPD will adopt and implement a language assistance plan, which will be translated into the Spanish language, posted in public areas, and disseminated to town employees and local community organizations serving LEP persons. In addition, the plan requires the hiring of interpreters and translation of vital documents, and establishes an outreach program to ensure that the LEP community is included in town services and programs. The memorandum of agreement allows the Department to monitor the town’s progress for two years.

“I welcome the town of Mattawa’s commitment to ensuring that their limited English proficient residents have access to town services and are equally protected and served by the Mattawa Police Department,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that the town and the police department worked cooperatively with the Department to resolve this matter.”

Title VI and the Safe Streets Act and their implementing regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in Department of Justice-funded programs or activities, and provide jurisdiction for the Department to investigate and resolve complainants’ allegations.