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Lost in Translation: Limited English Proficient Populations and the Police

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 73 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2006 Pages: 40-44,46,50
Bharathi A. Venkatraman
Date Published
April 2006
10 pages
This article explains why a police department should have a plan for facilitating officers' communication with persons who are "limited English proficient" (LEP) and outlines guiding principles for developing a LEP plan.
Three reasons for implementing a LEP plan are to ensure that the quality and integrity of police services and interactions with LEP individuals are equal to those provided to English-speaking individuals; to avoid costly civil litigation due to omissions or misunderstanding in police interactions with LEP individuals; and to comply with Federal law that requires police departments to address language barriers. Suggestions for developing a LEP plan are to consider the number or proportion of LEP individuals in the service population; consider how often officers must communicate with LEP individuals; consider the importance to the LEP person of various services, benefits, or information provided by the department; and consider the resources available and the costs of providing various language services to LEP individuals. This four-factor approach is applied by the U.S. Justice Department in assessing whether a law enforcement agency and other recipients of Federal funding comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These factors recognize that a departmental language plan should be designed to meet the needs of each department. 25 references and appended checklists for officers and administrators designed to improve LEP services