On June 18th, 2015, the New York State Legislature passed a landmark bill introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman requiring that all state and local law enforcement have policies in place for translation of domestic violence reports taken in languages other than English. Assembly Member Maritza Davila also passed identical legislation in the State Assembly, and the bill is now headed to Governor Cuomo’s office for his signature.
The legislation, S.4288, was introduced in response to the murder of Deisy Garcia and her two young daughters by her estranged husband in January of 2014. Ms. Garcia had filed three separate domestic violence reports detailing the abuse and threats she received in Spanish between May and November of 2014, and also followed up by visiting the local Queens precinct. An internal investigation by the NYPD has revealed that Garcia’s initial report was never translated into English and no further review of the complaints was undertaken.
While the NYPD has had a long-standing internal protocol to translate all reports into English, the Detective Cherly Crispin has reinforced the policy in light of the tragedy and issued a formal statement, noting that “A memo will be transmitted to all commands confirming domestic violence officers to immediately locate a member of the command who possess the necessary language skills to translate a victim’s written statement into English.”
The New York City Law Department, which represents the City in legal disputes, has characterized the non-action as an isolated incident and stated that “The NYPD has more foreign-language-speaking officers than any police department in the country, including thousands of Spanish-speaking officers. Also, the NYPD has a corps of 19,000 members of the service who can provide interpretation services in over 70 languages.”
The passage of the bill would officially mandate that the all New York state law enforcement entities have an established policy in place to handle the prompt translation of any domestic violence reports. According to Senator Hoylman, the legislation is a major step forward for New York’s diverse population, and “Ensures that when a non-English speaker fills out a domestic violence report, that report will be promptly translated into English so police can begin a proper investigation and also requires that all victims of domestic violence are notified of their rights in their native language. In the world’s melting pot, language should never be an impediment to justice.”
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