Police and Sheriffs’ Departments (Departments) may want to consider creating a short policy statement that sets the tone and goal on language access in the agency. An example of what such a statement could potentially include is the following:

It is the policy of the Department (Department) to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to all individuals in any encounters with the Department regardless of their national origin or limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. A language assistance implementation plan and subsequent directives/general orders [as appropriate for your agency] will detail the steps to be taken in implementing this Policy.


LEP individuals do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.



Law enforcement officials have several planning documents they could choose to create.


The starting point for the Department’s Language Assistance Implementation Plan is the four-factor analysis and Guidance Document that the U.S. Department of Justice developed to assist law enforcement agencies in creating language access plans. ( The Guidance also provides examples of application of that analysis in law enforcement, particularly in Section A of the Appendix. More details on the document and analysis, as well as specific law enforcement examples, can be found at

Four-factor analysis:

  1. The number or proportion of LEP persons encountered in the Department’s jurisdiction/precinct etc., including any seasonal, tourism, or other variations in the LEP population;
  2. The frequency of contact with LEP individuals;
  3. The nature and importance of the various types of encounters the Department has with LEP persons; and
  4. The resources available to the Department and the costs associated with providing language services.

While all law enforcement activities are important, the four-factor analysis allows the Department to prioritize types of language services, and to ensure that appropriate language assistance resources are promptly available where most needed.




If a Department decides to assign a Responsible Official/LEP Coordinator who reports to the Chief, Sheriff, or some other high-ranking official, some of the responsibilities of that position could be, for example, to:

The official responsible for language assistance services could be given the authority to delegate responsibilities, as appropriate, to various Department employees but could retain ultimate responsibility for oversight and implementation of the Plan.

Larger Departments with significant LEP populations may choose to designate precinct-level responsible officials also.

The Plan and Directives should set forth the name and contact information of the Responsible Officials, if the Department chooses to assign them.


In general, Departments have the following options to consider including in their plans for the provision of language services:


1. Direct Communication with LEP Individuals by Bilingual Staff

  • Often, the most efficient and cost-effective method for communicating with LEP individuals is direct communication through qualified bilingual employees fluent both in English and the LEP person’s language.
  • Consider taking the following steps to ensure accurate communications:
  • Creating written standards and adopting assessments for qualifying Department employees as bilingual.
  • Assessing fluency in both languages and in the terminology used by the Department prior to designating a staff member as bilingual. A person may be able to convey simple instructions or hold conversations in an LEP individual’s primary language, but not be sufficiently proficient in that language to perform more complicated tasks such as conducting interrogations, taking statements, collecting evidence, or conveying rights or responsibilities. These individuals are not yet “bilingual.”
  • Providing initial and periodic training to bilingual employees on their role in direct bilingual communication, code of conduct for bilingual communications, and law enforcement terminology in other languages.
  • Consider taking the following steps to improve effective utilization of bilingual officers:
  • Maintaining a directory of all qualified bilingual employees, including a list of the non-English language(s) they speak and their contact information, assignments, shifts, etc.
  • Recruiting bilingual staff and considering pay differentials or other forms of recognition for employees who do “double duty” as qualified bilingual employees.
  • Considering bilingual capabilities and language assistance needs of the community (or, in the case of a call for assistance, the specific language needed) in assignments and dispatch.

2. Interpretation

When language services are needed, the Department should use qualified interpretation services when a non-bilingual employee/officer needs to communicate with an LEP person or vice versa, when qualified bilingual employees are unavailable or en route, and when available bilingual employees lack the skills, rank, or assignment to provide direct communication services.

a. Options to consider include:

  • Staff interpreters (trained and qualified) who are employed by the Department exclusively to perform interpretation services.
  • Contract in-person interpreters, such as state and federal court interpreters, among others.
  • Contract telephonic interpreters who provide interpretation according to Department guidelines. The language assistance implementation plan could set forth telephonic interpretation options, and how to access them, including use of telephonic or radio equipment to:
  • Access employees, interpreters from other agencies, or others who have been qualified as interpreters by the Department.
  • Access commercial telephonic interpretation services. The Plan will set forth information on access codes and assurances of quality control for such services.
  • Interpreters from other agencies with which the Department has a resource-sharing or other formal arrangement to interpret according to Departmental guidelines.
  • Interpreters who also serve as bilingual sworn officers or employees and have undergone training and passed Departmental language proficiency assessments and rigorous training to serve dual roles as sworn officers/civilian employees and interpreters.
  • A bilingual person may be sufficiently proficient in English and a foreign language to have direct monolingual conversations in that foreign language with an LEP individual, but not sufficiently proficient to convert orally what is said in the foreign language back into English. Likewise, the person may be perfectly fluent in both languages, but unskilled in interpreting and untrained in the various modes of interpretation and appropriate use of those modes (simultaneous, consecutive, sight).
  • Consider creating written standards for assessing and qualifying bilingual Department employees as interpreters, and provide or secure training for qualified employees on the role of a Department interpreter, the modes of interpretation, the code of conduct for interpretation, and the use of law enforcement terminology in other languages.
  • Bilingual officers used for the dual purpose of interpreting should inform the LEP person that they are also officers in the Department.
  • Volunteer interpreters who have undergone training and meet Departmental language proficiency standards, and have formal arrangements with the Department to perform interpretation services.
  • Family members, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, bystanders, and children generally should not be used for interpretation, especially for communications involving witnesses, victims, and potential suspects, or in investigations, collection of evidence, negotiations, or other sensitive situations, except temporarily in unforeseen, emergency circumstances while awaiting professional interpretation or bilingual officers.

b. Choosing Between Telephonic and In-Person Interpretation

  • When interpretation is needed, in-person interpreters may be preferred (Department employees or contract) for lengthy interactions and interactions with significant potential consequences to the LEP person, such as interviews or interrogations.
  • In general, when interpretation is needed, telephonic interpretation services are most appropriate for brief encounters, situations in which no qualified in-person interpreter is available, while awaiting a qualified in-person interpreter, and during telephone conversations with LEP persons.


1. General Forms and Documents.

Using the four-factor analysis, the Department should translate the vital written materials into languages of frequently–encountered LEP groups (considering literacy of LEP populations in their language). Vital information from those documents should be interpreted when translations are not available for LEP or when oral communication is more effective, such as in the case of LEP individuals whose primary language is traditionally an oral one.

The Plan could set forth the documents to be translated, including languages and timeframes for such translations. For instance, the Department could consider the following format and types of documents for translations of general materials:

FORMS [Identify specifically, as appropriate]




Documents relating to motor vehicle stops, including citations, accident reports, notices of rights, warnings, and general information:





Documents relating to accessing emergency services, calling for police assistance, etc.:






Miranda warnings and consent/waiver forms:





Documents relating to intake/detention/incarceration:





Notices and posters containing important information on the availability of language services:




Documents relating to criminal citations, summons, and warrants:





Documents relating to complaints:






Consider planning options for the following:

2. Specific Written Communications Between LEP Persons and the Department (such as complaints filed in a language other than English, written instructions, warnings, orders, etc.).

a. The Department should take reasonable steps to ensure document translation and meaningful communication.
b. The more significant the communication to the LEP person, the greater the need to ensure competent and timely translations.
c. When translations are not possible or reasonable, important information should be conveyed verbally in the relevant language. Taglines in the appropriate languages could inform individuals how to receive oral language assistance to understand the contents of document.


The Plan for management could include planning for personnel and human resource matters, such as:

The Plan should include name and contact information for persons responsible for implementing these measures, as appropriate.


The Department should consider providing:



The Plan should set forth how Department employees will use the language assistance measures (bilingual officers, interpreters, translators, etc.) in handling situations involving LEP individuals. While knowledge of the entire Plan is helpful, officers and employees coming into contact with LEP persons will mostly need to know what they are supposed to do in such situations, thus making directives, training, and training tools (such as roll call videos and instructions that can be carried easily) most valuable for those employees/officers.

1. The Plan and Directives should provide officers/employees with an order of preference for using oral language assistance services, such as, for example:

  • Bilingual employees are to be requested/deployed first for direct monolingual communication with LEP persons in their primary language. Bilingual employees who are used to interpret between LEP persons and others must be qualified to do so.
  • Staff interpreters are to be used when bilingual employees are unavailable, lack the language capabilities, skills, or rank to be used/deployed.
  • Contract interpretation services will be used where staff interpreters are unavailable or lack the language capabilities, skills, or rank to be used/deployed.
  • Family members, neighbors, friends, acquaintance, bystanders, and children should not be used for interpretation, especially for communications involving witnesses, victims, and potential suspects, or in investigations, collection of evidence, negotiations, or other sensitive situations, except temporarily in unforeseen, emergency circumstances while awaiting professional interpretation or bilingual officers.

However, the type of language assistance to be used may vary depending on the situation. The Plan should reflect the need to ensure availability of the highest quality language assistance in situations that may result in significant consequences for the LEP person or have potential safety or evidentiary consequences.

2. Identifying and Preparing for Language Needs:

The Plan could include information on responsibility for ensuring that:

  • All employees receive language identification cards and are trained in using these cards to identify the primary language of LEP individuals.
  • Information is disseminated on common languages encountered and for training employees regarding language needs of the community served, as well as literacy rates and/or issues regarding non-written languages.
  • All employees know what to do if the LEP person’s language cannot be identified using the cards (such as seeking the assistance of telephonic or other services).
  • Officers understand that they should communicate through interpreters using the first person (i.e., “please tell me your name, address . . .” rather than, “please ask him his name, address . . . ”), and that it is their job, not the interpreter’s, to develop and ask any questions.
  • The dispatch unit/supervisor maintains a current list of all bilingual employees and staff interpreters, etc., which includes their availability, shift, and/or other contact information.

Consider setting forth reasonable procedures for ensuring language assistance in general, and specifically in the following areas:

A. 9-1-1 Communications with LEP Individuals – 9-1-1 communications should be conducted in the language of the LEP caller. Officers dispatched to the scene should be made aware of language assistance needs and be prepared to respond appropriately. Wherever practicable, bilingual officers speaking the needed language should be dispatched.

Consider setting forth in the plan, as appropriate, responsibility for ensuring that the following are adopted:

B. Arrests, Enforcement Stops, and Field Investigations – Effective planning and deployment of bilingual officers and utilization of interpretation and other language services can help ensure that officers conduct important communication with LEP persons in the appropriate language during field enforcements and investigations, including: Terry stops; arrests; Miranda and other warnings; serving warrants and restraining orders; motor vehicle stops; accident investigations; pedestrian stops; and witness, suspect, or victim interviews.

Consider including the following in the Department’s Plan and any appropriate Directives to ensure that:

C. Custodial Interrogations – Advising of rights and all other communications with the LEP suspect/witness should be explained to the LEP individual in his/her primary language. Miscommunication during custodial interrogations may have a substantial negative impact on the evidence presented in any related criminal prosecution, may result in improper consequences to the LEP person, and may result in a failure to pursue all appropriate leads. The need for quality and accuracy is at its most critical during interrogations.

Consider planning for the following:

D. Intake and Detention – Intake should be conducted in appropriate languages so that detainees understand their rights and responsibilities and can communicate health, mental health, safety, and other important information and needs. [If the law enforcement agency operates a jail, the planning tool for corrections/jails should also be considered].

Consider planning for the following:

F. Complaints – Consider including in the Plan processes to ensure that LEP persons are able to make complaints in their language and language barriers do not impede proper investigation of such complaints.

G. Outreach – Outreach efforts can build bridges between law enforcement and immigrant and LEP communities and can ensure better understanding of rights and responsibilities, as well as safety and preparedness. Thus, consider outreach efforts to be conducted in languages most frequently encountered in the population served.


Consider making updated copies of the Language Assistance Policy, the Language Assistance Implementation Plan, directives/general orders (or the equivalent), training opportunities, and other language assistance information and tools available in a central location and distributed or otherwise made easily accessible.


Consider posting signs in visitor areas that detail important information in languages most frequently encountered and in staff areas on how staff can access language services.

Consider whether notices of language services available free of charge to LEP persons will be prominently posted, in the appropriate languages, at Department entrances, lobbies, websites, or other locations where LEP individuals are likely to see them.


Consider the following:

Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to use this document as a starting point for developing a language assistance policy and language assistance implementation plan, and to modify it as appropriate to meet the needs of the particular Department. Additional guidance, tips, and tools can be found at Comments and recommendations are welcome. Please send them to: Coordination and Review Section, LEP Initiative, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, NYA Bldg., Washington, DC 20530