Language Access/Interpretation in Law Enforcement System

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”-Leviticus 19:33-34


The Problem

Over the past 10 years, Central Virginia has become an increasingly diverse and relatively new gateway region for immigrants and refugees. However, many of our systems and institutions–schools, hospitals, and local government have not yet adapted to the increase in the number of people for whom English is not their first language. Many limited-English proficiency (LEP) community members–including refugees and immigrants–have difficulties interacting with law enforcement officials.

During the Listening Process in the fall of 2009, IMPACT collected stories from leaders who had tried to report crimes, but were not able to communicate with the police officer who arrived at their home; or prisoners who were punished for unintentionally breaking rules in the jail because the inmate manual was not printed in a language they could read. It was clear to our justice ministries that our community was not acting justly, ensuring that our brothers and sisters who do not speak english well are treated fairly.

The Solution

In the Spring of 2010, IMPACT sought commitments from Col. Matthews of the Regional Jail and both Chiefs of the City and County Police Departments to develop and implement LEP plans for their institutions. These LEP plans include improved access to interpreters, translation of printed materials, and training of 100% of police officers in proper protocol when addressing non- or limited-English speaking persons.