Chicago Police Add Language Access Coordinator to Better Engage Non-English Speakers

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Hundreds of thousands of residents in Chicago have limited English proficiency. To better communicate and engage with those individuals, the Chicago Police Department has created a new position aimed at expanding language access.

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The CPD on Friday announced it has hired Roxana Cortes, a former Chicago Public Schools translation specialist, to become the department’s first-ever language access coordinator. Cortes will work to implement a system of equal language access for non-fluent English speakers.

“Impartial policing is central to promoting broad community engagement, fostering public confidence in our department, and building partnerships between our officers and the communities we serve,” Deputy Superintendent Barbara West, who oversees CPD’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, said in a statement.

“We’re fortunate to have someone with Roxana’s skillset and experience guide our efforts as we provide equal language access to CPD programs and services for all Chicago residents.”

One of the police reforms mandated under the consent decree – which brought federal oversight to the CPD – was a revision to the CPD’s language access policy, in order to “provide meaningful access to CPD programs and services for individuals who have a limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English.”

The creation of the new coordinator position was also included in the consent decree, which states the coordinator must “assess the effectiveness and efficiency of CPD’s policies on an ongoing basis.”

Other requirements include ensuring qualified interpreters are used in accordance with CPD policy, including for the provision of Miranda warnings, and publishing English and translated non-English versions of the department’s language access policy on the CPD website.

The CPD said Cortes will work to improve the department’s compliance with those language access policy requirements.

In a 2017 audit, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found that the seven city departments were not in compliance with the city’s Language Access Ordinance, which required those departments to submit language access policies and add language access coordinators. The CPD was not among those seven departments.

According to that audit, Chicago at the time had nearly 400,000 residents with limited English proficiency.

A year later, Ferguson published a follow-up to his initial report, which found the city had only “partially” implemented corrective actions to better align with that ordinance.

Cortes will be “instrumental” in crafting CPD’s own language access policy, the department said, as well as implementing an accreditation system that includes independent assessment, testing, training and proficiency certifications for the CPD’s 1,200 self-identified multilingual officers.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve developed an understanding and a passion for the needs of immigrants and refugees who require language access to city services,” Cortes said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with CPD as we implement a system of equal language access for our impacted communities.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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