NYSCADV MEMORANDUM OF SUPPORT
A.4347 Davila / S.4288 Hoylman
(click on memo title above for pdf version)
NYSCADV urges the New York State Legislature to ensure that state and local law enforcement agencies have policies and procedures in place to ensure that domestic violence victims are notified of their rights in their native language, and that victim statements on Domestic Incident Reports (DIRs) are promptly translated into English.
The Domestic Incident Report (DIR) is a form developed by New York State that police use when they respond to domestic violence calls. The form is an official record documenting what occurred when police responded to the call. Police are required to complete these and provide a copy to the victim whether or not an arrest is made. A few key elements of the DIR include:
- AvVictim Rights Notice that explains the rights of the victim and how they can contact local domestic violence support services;
- The names and ID numbers of the responding officer and supervisor so that victims can follow up with them directly;
- Statement of Allegations/Supporting Deposition – this section gives the victim the opportunity to describe in their own words what happened; and
- An explanation if the officers are not making an arrest.
The DIR is a critical record that helps police agencies, courts, and victims track incidents and demonstrate patterns of abuse. The Statement of Allegations section is a critical component of the DIR, as it provides important details and dangerousness indicators that may not be evident in the rest of the report.
Effective communication between victims and officers is an essential component of police response. Law enforcement is a key gateway for victims to learn about other important interventions, such as family court and domestic violence services. The counseling and information officers provide at the scene can help save lives.
In order for police officers to do their difficult jobs appropriately and effectively, they need to understand what victims and witnesses saw and experienced. This is also important for follow-up procedures, and for advising victims, children and witnesses of next steps following the perpetration of a crime. Police officers have a tough job made even more challenging when they arrive at a scene where one or even all parties do not use English. Establishing clear policies and guidelines that will help officers manage a scene with language barriers will help all involved, and will go far in ensuring victim safety and offender accountability.
Failing to address the translation needs of victims with limited English proficiency (LEP) poses a grave risk to safety, and hinders the criminal justice system’s ability to obtain justice. A particularly tragic example of this is the Deisy Garcia case from 2014. Deisy and her two children were viciously attacked and murdered by her ex-husband while they were on their way to church. This happened after multiple reports and DIR Statements of Allegation filed by Deisy, documenting in detail the threats to her life made by the abuser, went un-translated by the New York City Police Department (1). This is not an isolated occurrence. A number of disturbing high profile stories across New York State, as well as federal litigation alleging a pattern and practice of discrimination against limited English proficient victims, has thrust a number of New York police departments practices into the national spotlight in the past year alone:
- Police officers utilized the alleged batterer to translate because the victim was unable to communicate in English (2)
- Victims with limited English proficiency are being arrested because officers rely solely on the reports of the English-proficient abusers (3)
- A Russian-speaking victim said that after being accosted by her husband, she called the police but the officers denied her requests to provide her statement in her native language, instead telling her to copy the word “refused” into the victim testimony section of the domestic incident report (4)
- A civil rights action was filed on behalf of limited English proficient (LEP) New Yorkers against the NYPD for routine discrimination and mistreatment of LEP New Yorkers that seek police assistance in times of crisis. According to the records obtained through discovery in the case, 911 operators used an outside interpreter firm for 7,000 calls in a one month period, while police in the field and their supervisors called in to the same service only 32 times (5)
This pattern of practice brings up serious concerns about New York State police departments being out of compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against individuals based on race, religion or national origin and “national origin” includes an individual’s language of preference.
LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY
Limited English proficiency is not a rare occurrence in New York State:
- The number of LEP individuals in the United States has grown by 81 percent since 1990 (6)
- About half of the LEP individuals living in the United States reside in three states: California, Texas, and New York (7)
- New York State has the 3rd highest number of LEP individuals in the United States (almost 2.5 million) (8)
- Almost half of NYC residents speak a language other than English at home, and approximately . of NYC’s population identify themselves as limited English proficient (9)
As a group, the LEP population in the United States is less educated and more likely to live below the federal poverty line than the overall U.S. population 10, thus increasing their vulnerability to a number of intersecting oppressions like racism, misogyny, and ethnocentrism.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS
Upon becoming law, A.4347/S.4288 will go far in remedying the current concerns regarding the inconsistent policies and practices of police departments in New York State. This new law will require that:
- State and local police departments implement language access policies and procedures for responding to and investigating crimes between members of the same family or household. These must include:
- the prompt translation of victim testimony on Domestic Incident Reports when such testimony is made in a language other than English;
- mechanisms for notifying the victim of their rights in their native language
- Languages that will be translated will be determined based on the size of the New York State population that speaks each language and other relevant factors.
Passing this legislation will mandate critically important reforms in police practice, providing all victims of domestic violence with equal access to justice, regardless of the language they speak.
(1) New York Times. 2014. Retrieved from:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/nyregion/language-barrier-continues-to-thwart-victims-of-crimes.html
(2) WAMC. 2014. Retrieved from: http://wamc.org/post/nys-ag-announces-language-access-agreement-newburgh-police
(3) Latino Post. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.latinopost.com/articles/4337/20140221/new-york-police-accused-of-denying-translation-services-to-non-english-speaking-immigrants.htm
(4) New York Times. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/nyregion/language-barrier-continues-to-thwart-victims-of-crimes.html
(5) WNYC News. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.wnyc.org/story/revelations-murder-case-call-question-nypds-service-immigrants/
(6) Migration Policy Institute. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/limited-english-proficient-population-united-states/
(7) Migration Policy Institute. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/limited-english-proficient-population-united-states/
(8) Migration Policy Institute. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/limited-english-proficient-population-united-states/
(9) New York City Department of Transportation. 2008-2009. Language Access Plan. Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/lap_dot_09.pdf
(10) Migration Policy Institute. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/limited-english-proficient-population-united-states/