Officers in the Denver Police Department violated the civil rights of people who do not speak English by failing to use appropriate translation services or by not using any translation services at all, a federal investigation found.
The investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice began in 2018 after Denverites raised concerns about officers’ interactions with residents in the East Colfax neighborhood who speak Burmese and Rohingya. On several occasions, officers used children or other family members to help translate. Sometimes police did not use any interpreters.
“As a result of these practices, DPD officers arrested limited English proficiency individuals without informing them of the charges against them in a language they could understand; used minors to provide language assistance; and relied on unqualified individuals to provide language assistance on behalf of DPD officers,” according to the investigation.
The Department of Justice on Monday agreed to a settlement with the Denver Police Department that will require police to implement new policies and training regarding translation services. The department will update its policy to prohibit the use of bystanders and family members for translation services, except in exigent circumstances.
Department leaders will also appoint a language access coordinator and improve training on interacting with people who speak languages other than English, according to the settlement.