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Press Release

Justice Department Secures Language Access Agreement with Sheriff’s Office in Washington State

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today an agreement to resolve allegations that the King County, Washington, Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) discriminated against people who are limited English proficient (LEP), in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under the terms of the agreement, KCSO has agreed to take a number of steps to improve language access for individuals with LEP. Title VI prohibits race, color and national origin discrimination (including discrimination on the basis of English proficiency) by entities that receive federal financial assistance.

“The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that our law enforcement agencies are able to protect and serve all people in their community, including crime victims, regardless of their ability to speak English fluently,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement agreement will enhance public safety, and improve delivery of language services for people with limited English proficiency in King County.”

“Today’s agreement with the King County Sheriff’s Office helps build community trust,” said U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman for the Western District of Washington. “I am pleased that as soon as the problem was presented to the Sheriff’s Office, the agency realized it had to improve policies around language access and immediately agreed to make changes.”

Today’s agreement details a two-year plan to phase in a series of language access supports to improve communication between KCSO deputies and individuals with LEP. Under the agreement, KCSO has agreed to hire a language access program manager; develop interim and final directives prohibiting the use of children, family, bystanders and other unqualified individuals for language assistance; engage in outreach with community members and stakeholders; develop a robust training program and ensure an accessible complaint process.

The Justice Department began engaging with KCSO after a community-based organization raised concerns about an incident between a KCSO Deputy and a resident with LEP. The Justice Department provided technical assistance to KCSO, which resulted in this settlement agreement.

This agreement was jointly negotiated by the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

The agreement is part of the department’s Law Enforcement Language Access Initiative (LELAI), a nationwide effort to assist law enforcement agencies to overcome language barriers in their day-to-day work. The initiative, which is led by the Civil Rights Division in partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, provides technical assistance resources and tools that can help state and local law enforcement provide meaningful language access to individuals with LEP, affirmatively engages law enforcement agencies that want to review, update and/or strengthen their language access polices, plans and training and strengthens the connection between law enforcement agencies and LEP community stakeholders and LEP populations.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at and information about limited English proficiency and Title VI is available at More information on LELAI is available at Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at

Updated February 8, 2024

Civil Rights