Photo: Anthony Navarret - Legal Services NYC
Five Latina women have brought a federal lawsuit against the New York Police Department for not providing Spanish-speakers when they were involved in domestic abuse situations.
All women have limited-to-no English-language skills.
The women who hail from Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala all called the NYPD to report domestic violence at the hands of their partner and requested a Spanish-speaking officer and/or interpreter – neither was provided. The women are working with local violence prevention agencies and women advocate organizations to bring their suit. In some cases they claim their partner was not charged since they were not able to explain the circumstances of the abuse.
NYPD says the case is without merit because the department has many Spanish-speaking officers, has over 1,000 multi-lingual interpreters volunteering their services and paid interpreters available at all times.
“When immigrant New Yorkers are unable to communicate with the police in order to report a crime or speak out as a witness, our whole city is less safe,” said Amy Taylor, Language Access Coordinator at Legal Services NYC. “Furthermore, this discriminatory treatment of our City’s immigrant communities creates a chilling effect –as a result of their treatment, many of our plaintiffs are so fearful of the police that they would not contact them again should they need protection.”
The women say their call for help was answered with “English-only” officers who also “mocked and ridiculed them”. In two of the five cases the woman ended up being arrested because they claim officers listened to the English-language version of events from their abusers.
Reportedly nearly 25 percent of New York City resident require interpreter-services since they have limited English-language skills. The city claims to have interpreters in 25 different languages on call when needed.
The women are seeking unspecified monetary damages and asking NYPD to change the way it handles requests for interpreters.