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Overcoming Language Barriers: Solutions for Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Susan Shah; Insha Rahman; Anita Khashu
Date Published
March 2007
20 pages
This report guides law enforcement agencies in the development and/or use of a range of tools that can improve agency personnel's communications with non-English-speaking persons.
The tools and steps described can be tailored to meet each agency's distinctive needs and resources. A practical and relatively simple approach to improving communications with non-English-speaking residents is to train agency staff in how to use telephonic and "ad hoc" interpreters. A more ambitious approach involves pooling language resources among local government agencies. For law enforcement agencies that are able to develop a comprehensive language assistance response, this report provides guidance on how to create language-access policies, a staff training curriculum, and partnerships with local community organizations for the purpose of educating immigrant residents about how to improve their communication with police personnel in various contexts. General guidance for how a law enforcement agency can improve its communication with non-English-speaking residents is supplemented with descriptions of approaches that other law enforcement agencies have used. The report draws upon lessons learned from Translating Justice, a project of Vera's Center on Immigration and Justice. This project involved work with law enforcement agencies in California, Nevada, and Ohio, in order to develop language-access plans and policies suitable for their particular jurisdictions. 21 references and resources