DOJ settles with Pennsylvania city over language barrier

·1 min read

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police department will be required to take steps to remove language barriers faced by the city’s large Spanish-speaking population under a U.S. Justice Department settlement announced Tuesday.

The Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation of the Hazelton Police Department after a resident with limited English proficiency reported having to rely on his young son and a co-worker to be able to communicate with officers.

Under the settlement, the police department will update its operating procedures to require “appropriate language assistance” to people who don't speak English. The city, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia, will also print forms and notices in English and Spanish, assess the skills of its bilingual officers and provide training to staff.

Hazleton’s Hispanic population has swelled from less than 5% in 2000 to nearly 60% of the population of about 25,000 today.

The settlement resolves the DOJ probe.

“Timely and accurate communication between limited English proficient residents and police officers is essential to public safety,” Kristen M. Clarke, assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “The changes required by this agreement will benefit crime victims and witnesses, but also help police officers do their jobs."

An email was sent to the city's police chief seeking comment.

The Associated Press