NASSAU COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT TO STRENGTHEN LANGUAGE ACCESS SERVICES
HEMPSTEAD—New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today an agreement with the Nassau County Police Department, to strengthen language access services for County residents for whom English is a second language.
Today’s announcement marks a major victory for La Fuente and supporting allies, who have spearheaded an effort to compel the police department to make Spanish language proficiency part of its mission in order to better serve the Nassau County community. LatinoJustice PRLDEF assisted La Fuente in its efforts.
“Today’s agreement spreads the message loud and clear that the immigrant community is not forgotten,” said Lucia Gomez-Jimenez, Executive Director of La Fuente’s Long Island Civic Participation Project. “We want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman and the Nassau county Police Department for taking this important step to protect the rights of those New Yorkers who do not speak English well. We expect other agencies in the state to follow this excellent example.”
“We still have a lot of work to do to extend bi-lingual services to residents throughout Nassau,” Gomez-Jimenez continued, “but we look forward to finally having the opportunity to work with the police department in Nassau County to effectively implement this agreement. We know that working together, we can make Nassau County a safer place for all its residents.”
Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF said, "Weeks after a major federal election, in which Latino voters participated in record numbers, we are pleased to see the Attorney General's Office remains focused on lifting the barriers that will make participation easier for voters in future elections. Boards of Elections around our state are required to provide effective assistance for those voters who are limited English proficient and we applaud the Attorney General for making enforcement of the Voting Rights Act's minority language requirements a top priority."
The agreement will help bring about the institutionalization of best practices across all of the Department's precincts and ensure that officers will provide interpretation and translation services to LEP individuals.
“Access to our state’s justice system should not depend on the ability to read or write English. The Nassau County Police Department's proactive efforts stand as a model for all other law enforcement agencies across New York State and their efforts illustrate the steps necessary to ensure that justice is not compromised by language barriers," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "Working in cooperation with our office, Nassau County has put in place a language access program that will strengthen and enhance access to police services for thousands of people on Long Island.”
In cooperation with the Attorney General's Office, the Nassau County Police Department agreed to improve its existing language access policies for individuals who are limited English proficient. Going forward, the Department will provide all necessary interpretation and translation services for victims, witnesses and subjects; take meaningful steps to identify and recruit bilingual officers; conduct training for both current and new officers regarding the revised language access policy and protocols; make available translated materials and public notices; and regularly convene with the Attorney General's Office to discuss the successfulness of its language access program.
According to Census data, approximately two and a half million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English. Over 11% of Nassau County's residents speak English less than "very well." The Police Department's strengthened language access program will help ensure that individuals have full access to vital police services, regardless of their language ability.
Nassau Police Department Chief Steven Skrynecki noted, "The Department is committed to ensuring that all officers and civilian employees that have ongoing contact with the public are effectively able to communicate with those seeking assistance whether making complaints; or during victim interviews; as witnesses or subjects of criminal investigations; when issuing safety alerts or public service announcements; or during traffic stops."
The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Allegra Chapman and Clare Norins under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.
The Civil Rights Bureau is committed to promoting civil rights compliance across New York State. To file a complaint with the Bureau, contact 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, established in 1972, has won landmark civil rights cases in education, housing, voting, migrant, immigrant, employment and other civil rights. Through the efforts of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Latino voters have been critical players in ensuring fair and bilingual election systems and fair redistricting opportunities for the nation’s largest minority.