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Post date: November 25 2014

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Adoption Of Comprehensive Written Language Access Policy By Finger Lakes Region Sheriff’s Department

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Implements Official Language Access Procedures To Ensure Vital Law Enforcement Services Are Available To All New Yorkers Ensuring Better Communications With Limited English Proficient Community

Schneiderman: Sheriff’s Office To Be Applauded For Commitment To Ensuring That Vital Law Enforcement Services Are Available To All New Yorkers

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced action taken by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office to enhance accessibility of law enforcement services for residents with limited English proficiency. Through adoption of a comprehensive written policy, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office expands upon its existing commitment to provide interpretation and translation assistance when needed. 

“Equal justice under law requires that all New Yorkers have access to the important public safety services provided by law enforcement agencies, regardless of their language ability,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Through adoption of a comprehensive language access policy, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office now stands as a model for other law enforcement agencies in the Finger Lakes region by ensuring that the delivery of police services are not limited or restricted by language barriers.” 

The sheriff’s office has implemented a written language access policy that builds upon its long-standing commitment to be responsive to its community, and meeting the needs of all those served by the office.  Pursuant to the policy, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office personnel will: 

  • Ensure that its officers and civilian employees who have regular contact with the public can effectively communicate with LEP persons, including when responding to calls for assistance; conducting traffic stops; taking complaints;  interviewing crime victims; making public service announcements, and issuing safety alerts;
  • Ensure effective communication with LEP subjects of criminal investigations;
  • Provide annual training on how to effectively communicate with LEP persons;
  • Take steps to recruit, hire and retain bilingual officers and staff;
  • Translate vital documents including complaint forms and other materials; and
  • Provide English- and Spanish-language Personnel Complaint Forms at the  sheriff’s office and on the office’s website.

According to Census data, approximately 2.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. Census data also indicates that among approximately 93,476 residents in Wayne County, nearly 4% percent are Hispanic.  Between 2008 and 2012, 4.8% (or 4,224) of Wayne County’s population spoke a language other than English at home, with Spanish being the most common language after English. Approximately 40% of Wayne County’s Spanish-speaking population reported speaking English less than very well. The sheriff’s office’s strengthened language access program will help ensure that all individuals in its communities have full access to essential police services, regardless of language ability.

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office is a full-service, fully-accredited law enforcement agency that protects and serves the residents of Wayne County. The office includes approximately 184 employees, including 66 full- and part-time police service deputies.  

Wayne County Sheriff Barry C. Virts said, “Our office has always been committed to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect. Working with the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, we have developed a written policy that reflects our practices and values.  This written language policy will help ensure that deputies continue to take the initiative to effectively communicate with individuals who have limited English proficiency and provide these individuals with timely and meaningful access to all Wayne County Sheriff’s Office’s services. As a professionally trained and state accredited law enforcement agency, it is my responsibility to constantly strive to improve our services to all our community members.”  

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office joins the Newburgh Police Department, the Nassau County Police Department, the Rochester Police Department, the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, and the Middletown Police Department in working with the New York State Attorney General’s Office to strengthen language access. These agreements come as our nation marks the 50th Anniversary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Upon signing the act, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson observed: “This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts, to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country.”

Ramona Palmer of the Victim Resource Center of Finger Lakes Region said, "Through our work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable populations in the Finger Lakes Region, including domestic violence victims and migrant workers, we know that it is critical that law enforcement agencies be able to serve and protect all communities regardless of their ability to speak English. The Wayne County Sheriff's Office, with whom we've worked cooperatively before, has taken the important step of adopting a written language access policy that addresses language barriers and helps ensure greater protection for crime victims, witnesses and the public at large. We thank the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau for making promotion of language access a central civil rights priority."

Attorney General Schneiderman has made promotion of language access a core civil rights priority. His Civil Rights Bureau is committed to promoting civil rights compliance and language access across New York State. To file a complaint with the Bureau, contact 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.

The matter is being handled by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Assistant Attorney General Anjana Samant. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

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