If you’re reading this in its original context, you likely speak English. But in New York City, there are millions of people who don’t. So shouldn’t the NYPD provide an adequate number of interpreters to best serve and protect their people?
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division says the New York Police Department has a long way to go in ensuring non-English speakers have equal access to protection and assistance of the police. Their report, released last week, calls on the NYPD to do more in providing interpreters and that their shortcomings have made them fall short of fully complying with civil rights laws.
The report was based off of 10 months of research looking at the department’s handling of the massive language differences within the city. While the NYPD disputes the findings in the report, the NY Times has several examples of non-English speakers not getting fair treatment by the police who didn’t understand them and didn’t seek out certified translators.
The Times pointed to incidents where children and even suspects were forced to translate for alleged victims. In one case a woman called 911 on her estranged husband whom she said assaulted her. When the police arrived, without a translator, they didn’t file a report and didn’t even take any notes.
Perhaps just as troublesome as victims not having fair access to interpreters is suspects being arrested without the benefit of knowing why. Imagine being cuffed and taken to jail by people who don’t understand you and whom you don’t understand.
While criminal charges and being arrested are always troublesome, facing those charges and arrest procedures when you can’t communicate with the police is even more stressful. In addition to not understanding the language, you would likely have a lesser understanding of the laws and the legal procedures under New York laws.
The police are paid to do their job by taxpayer money. It seems unfair, then, when they cannot serve all of the taxpayers who are basically signing their checks.
While the NYPD must now take steps to get in compliance with the Justice Departments findings, this doesn’t eliminate the problems within the system when it comes to being a non-English speaker.
Regardless of your language or nation of origin, you want to be treated fairly by the police and by the court system. Having a criminal defense attorney on your side when you’re facing criminal charges is a good place to start.
Contact our offices today to be put in contact with an attorney that can offer you a free consultation on your case and an explanation of what you can expect in the state criminal courts.