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Post date: October 21 2014

A.G. Schneiderman Secures Agreement With Newburgh Police Department To Strengthen Language Access Services

Agreement Ensures Language Access For One of the State’s Largest Limited English Proficient Communities

Newburgh’s Population Is Nearly 48 Percent Hispanic, Among The Largest Percentage Of Any City In The State

Schneiderman: My Office Is Committed To Promoting Access To Justice And Ensuring That Vital Law Enforcement Services Are Available To All New Yorkers

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Newburgh Police Department that will help strengthen language access services for residents who are limited English proficient (LEP). The agreement will improve the ability of officers in the Newburgh Police Department to provide interpretation and translation services when needed. Newburgh’s Police Department protects a diverse population.  

“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. “This agreement with the Newburgh Police Department — and similar agreements my office has reached with other police departments around New York state — will help us ensure that the delivery of police services are not limited or restricted by language barriers.” 

In cooperation with the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, the police department has agreed to improve its language access policies for individuals who are limited English proficient. The department will: 

  • Ensure that its officers, and its civilian employees who have regular contact with the public, effectively communicate with LEP persons, including when responding to calls for assistance; making 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 and maintain a mechanism for testing proficiency levels;
  • Translating vital documents, and relying upon translated materials made available through other law enforcement entities, agencies and courts;
  • Making English- and Spanish-language Personnel Complaint Forms available at all Newburgh Police Department buildings and on the department’s website; and
  • Regularly meet with the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the success of its language access program. 

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. More than 44 percent of residents in the City of Newburgh, age 5 and over, speak a language other than English at home, and more than 19 percent of Newburgh’s residents speak English less than “very well.” Newburgh’s population is nearly 48 percent Hispanic, among the largest percentage of any city in the state.  The police department’s strengthened language access program will help ensure that all individuals in its communities have full access to vital police services, regardless of language ability.   

Michael Ferrara, Chief of the Newburgh Police Department,said, “As a professionally trained police department here in the City of Newburgh, it is our responsibility to constantly strive for improvement in the way we relate with our diverse population.  Our language access plan was designed to help us diminish language barriers that may arise in any situations the police department may encounter.  The purpose is for our officers to be more effective in every aspect of their work.  Communicating with witnesses, victims, complainants, suspects or any member of the general public with language barriers is challenging even in the best of circumstances. Newburgh officers regularly encounter susceptible LEP persons in crisis situations, at times when the need for accurate communication is paramount.”

Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy said, “We applaud the Attorney General for ensuring that the substantial number of farm laborers, rising number of limited English proficient Latinos, domestic violence victims and vulnerable crime victims are able to access the important public safety services of the police department regardless of their ability to speak English. Newburgh is a city where nearly fifty percent of its population is of Latino descent, and it’s critical we are being responsive to this population." 

Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino said, “The City of Newburgh Police Department implemented a new language access policy to establish guidelines for assisting individuals with limited English proficiency.  The policy is intended to ensure maximum communications between law enforcement and all segments of our community and will enable the City of Newburgh Police Department to improve communication with our residents.  The City of Newburgh is committed to ensuring that all officers and civilian employees who have contact with the public are able to communicate effectively with those individuals seeking the assistance or services of the City of Newburgh Police Department. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the Attorney General’s Office to promote compliance with our goals and objectives.” 

Newburgh Police Department joins the Nassau County Police Department, the Rochester Police Department, the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department and the Middletown Police Department in working with the New York State Attorney General’s Office to strengthen language access.  These agreements come as we mark 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.” 

Attorney General Schneiderman has made promotion of compliance with the language assistance requirements of the act 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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