The Justice Department announced the launch of the Law Enforcement Language Access Initiative, a nationwide effort to assist law enforcement agencies in meeting their obligations to provide meaningful language assistance to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals. The initiative will build on the department’s longstanding work to ensure that law enforcement agencies are complying with their language access obligations.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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.”
The initiative will be led by the Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section in partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. Specifically, the initiative will:
- Develop technical assistance resources and tools that can assist local and state law enforcement agencies in their efforts to provide meaningful language access to LEP individuals and populations within their jurisdiction.
- Affirmatively engage law enforcement agencies that want to review, update, and/or strengthen their language access polices, plans and training.
- Leverage collaboration with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to conduct trainings in communities across the country to increase awareness of language access obligations and encourage widespread adoption of best practices by law enforcement agencies.
- Strengthen the department’s ties and engagement with LEP community stakeholders and LEP populations.
In addition to today’s initiative announcement, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced an agreement to resolve an investigation into allegations that the Denver Police Department (DPD) discriminated on the basis of national origin against LEP individuals in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits race, color, and national origin discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance.
“This agreement with the Denver Police Department will help police officers do their jobs,” said Matthew Kirsch, Attorney for the United States, Acting under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. §515 for the District of Colorado. “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.”
The Justice Department’s investigation of the DPD began after community members raised concerns about incidents involving Burmese and Rohingya-speaking LEP residents living in the East Colfax area of Denver. The investigation revealed numerous instances where DPD officers either failed to provide language assistance to LEP individuals or provided language assistance that was ineffective or inappropriate. For example, the investigation uncovered situations where children, family members and bystanders were relied upon for language assistance, including in circumstances where more reliable and objective language assistance should have been provided.
As part of this settlement agreement, the DPD has agreed to implement a series of changes to its language access policies, procedures and training, including:
Updating its Language Access Policy and Plan in order to establish procedures for communicating with LEP individuals, including witnesses and suspects, and to prohibit the use of children, family members, or bystanders to communicate with LEP individuals, except in exigent circumstances;
- Appointing its first-ever LEP Coordinator and establish Language Access Points of Contact (LAPCs) in every DPD district;
- Training all DPD employees and new recruits on identifying, communicating with, and documenting interactions with LEP individuals; and
- Creating a Language Access Committee that includes stakeholders representing LEP community interests.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt and information about limited English proficiency and Title VI is available at www.lep.gov. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/.
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