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Post date: August 6 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Yonkers Police Department To Establish Formal Language Access Policy

City Police Department Adopts Measures to Improve Delivery of and Access to Police Services for Growing Limited English Proficient (LEP) Community 

Schneiderman: All New Yorkers Have a Right to Access Law Enforcement’s Services Regardless of The Language They Speak 

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that the Yonkers Police Department has adopted formal, agency-wide language access policies to better serve the community’s Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents. The agreement calls for the adoption of policies and practices that will improve delivery of law enforcement services to the diverse LEP community of Yonkers and enhance police-community relationships, for everyone’s benefit.

“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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today, the Yonkers Police Department, which serves one of the most diverse cities in New York, joins a growing circle of law enforcement agencies that are taking proactive measures to ensure their services reach all members of their communities.”

In response to outreach by the Attorney General’s Office, the Yonkers Police Department examined its practices for addressing language barriers between the department and LEP community members and adopted procedures designed to improve communication between law enforcement and LEP individuals. The agreement with the Attorney General’s Office memorializes these procedures, which include:

  • Ensuring 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;
  • Ensuring effective communication with LEP subjects of criminal investigations;
  • Providing annual training on how to effectively communicate with LEP persons;
  • Taking steps to identify and recruit bilingual officers and staff;
  • Translating vital documents including complaint forms and other materials; and
  • Providing English- and Spanish-language Personnel Complaint Forms at the  police department’s offices and on the office’s website.

In 2012, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau launched a Law Enforcement Language Access Initiative to address the ways in which language stands as a barrier for communities seeking to access the important services provided by police departments and sheriffs’ offices.  Over the past two years, the Attorney General has worked to create and enhance the language access policies and practices of numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Nassau County Police Department, Middletown Police Department, Rochester Police Department, Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.  These agreements are part of the Attorney General’s ongoing efforts to promote compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Graciela Heymann, Executive Director of the Westchester Hispanic Coalition said, "With immigrants making up almost a quarter of Westchester’s population, and with the Hispanic community in Yonkers at  34.7%,  this Agreement provides a critical opportunity to ensure that the Police Department can better meet the needs of this community. We appreciate the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureaus focus on work that helps to uplift and support immigrants in the City of Yonkers. Whether we are talking about crime victims or suspects who are limited English proficient, ensuring that language does not stand as a barrier is key to better law enforcement service in our communities. With this agreement the great city of Yonkers is safer today.”

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. According to Census data, in Yonkers, 48% of the population over the age of 5 speaks a language other than English and 18% speak English less than very well.

This matter is being handled by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Assistant Attorney General Anjana Samant, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge Gary Brown of the Westchester Regional Office.  Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg

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.

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