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Suffolk Police “Still Not Making” the Language Connection

September 22, 2011

NEW YORK - One week after a critical finding from the Department of Justice, local immigrants' rights groups say the Suffolk County Police Department is still missing the connection when it comes to communicating with non-English speaking residents. Jessica Glynn, supervising attorney for Sepa Mujar says Suffolk County does have policies which talk about providing language services, but too often, she says officers don't know about the policies, or the interpreters just aren't available.

"Inconsistent language services. We've had folks actually walk into to the precinct to make a report and they are told, 'Sorry, there's no one here right now. Come back later.' Well, for a victim, especially a domestic-violence victim, there may not be a 'later.' "

The Suffolk County Police Department defended its actions when the Justice Department released its preliminary findings last week, saying it was doing more than most other municipalities to reach out to residents who don't speak English.

Immigrants' rights groups made their remarks outside the 3rd Precinct police station, where the day before the Justice Department finding, Glynn says, local immigrants were rebuffed when they tried to get language services for a planned community policing meeting.

"Last week, several immigrant residents came. They did not speak English and they requested an interpreter be made available, and they were met with the commanding officer actually laughing at them. For the police department to say that they're trying to meet with the community - we're not seeing it."

At this stage, the Justice Department is only making recommendations, but Glynn says any agency which receives federal funding is legally mandated to provide language services. If the Suffolk police fail to provide interpreters on a regular basis, Glynn says, they are breaking the law.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY