Audit Says NYC Police Fall Short in Providing Interpreters
According to an audit by the Justice Department's Office for Civil Rights, the New York City Police Department often fails to provide qualified interpreters to non-English-speakers. The federal review, which lasted 10 months, looked at how the police interact with the city’s growing immigrant population. Among the deficiencies cited in the report was the number of available certified interpreters which “appears to fall significantly short of the need” for some of the city's most commonly used non-English languages, such as Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Italian. As an example, the reviewers said there are only 12 certified Spanish interpreters in the police department’s linguistic services—one for every 76,748 of the city’s Spanish-speaking residents. The audit also found that police officers "frequently rely on bystanders to interpret for them," including children, even when trained interpreters are available. One officer explained to the reviewers that he had asked his fiancée to interpret for him because “it was quicker and easier to rely on her than to ask Operations to send a certified interpreter.” Michael L. Alston, director of the civil rights office, said, "It is clear the department needs to take further action to ensure that it adequately provides language assistance services to people with limited English proficiency." He added that the failure to provide “meaningful access to its services” puts the department in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The report was submitted to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly along with guidance for developing timelines and goals to address the deficiencies found during the audit. Police officials have disputed the report's conclusions, arguing that the reviewers based their findings on anecdotes rather than facts. In response to the audit, the department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, stated, “We do this better than anyone else, in far greater numbers than anyone else. That’s the forest the Justice Department missed for the trees. They don’t get New York.”
From "Audit Says Police Fall Short in Providing Interpreters"
New York Times (NY) (11/18/10) Rivera, Ray; Zraick, Karen; Baker, Al
Source: ATA Newsbriefs - November 2010