Addressing Language Access in Police Departments: Salem, MA, Police Department Models Compliance
Salem, Massachusetts, with a population of approximately 43,132, has a police force of 90 officers and uses a community policing model. Like many jurisdictions across the country, the population of Salem includes many residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
Officer Michael LaRiviere joined the Salem Police Department in 1989 and is currently the department’s Victim Services Officer (VSO). In this capacity, Officer LaRiviere Investigates a wide range of crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse and crimes against undocumented and LEP victims. Over the course of his career, VSO LaRiviere experienced firsthand the challenges of responding to and investigating crimes against LEP persons. In the past, he and his colleagues would rely on others at the scene, community members close by who were able to speak the victim’s language or bilingual officers.
Prior to being assigned as VSO, Michael was the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer and through this work, and subsequent involvement in national efforts to combat domestic violence, he became aware of federal laws and regulations that require the provision of meaningful access to individuals with LEP, and some fundamental problems in Salem’s approach. With this information, and at the direction of Salem Police Chief Mary E. Butler, VSO LaRiviere was tasked with implementing steps to improve the police department’s response to LEP individuals.
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