City begins bilingual training for criminal justice employees

San Francisco has begun a pilot program intended to train criminal justice agencies to better serve residents with limited English, the city announced this week.

The effort, initiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris, is aimed in particular at helping domestic violence abuse victims with little or no English-speaking capability, who may have difficulty communicating with police officers, 911 operators and attorneys, according to Tomas Lee, director of the city's Office of Language Services.

A 2007 study by the city's Department on the Status of Women found that interpretation services for domestic abuse victims were “inconsistently available and of poor quality,” according to the mayor's office.

Newsom said in a prepared statement announcing the new program that access to language services “is a civil right of every citizen,” and “should and must be available to all city residents, businesses and visitors.”

On Friday, the city began offering elementary Spanish classes to employees of the San Francisco Police Department, District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, Adult Probation Department and Department of Emergency Management.

The classes are voluntary and are based on requests from department staff to be able to communicate basic terms in Spanish, Lee said.

About 40 people are already enrolled, according to Lee.

Lee said having department staff fluent in other languages is also more cost-effective than having to hire translators.

Further trainings are planned for the spring in Cantonese and intermediate Spanish, as well as bilingual training in technical legal terminology.

“As prosecutors, we need to ensure that every victim and witness can assist us in holding offenders accountable,” Harris said.

“When women know that there are multilingual services and that officers can speak their language, they are more likely to come forward to report violence and abuse,” added Emily Murase, executive director of the Department on the Status of Women.

Bay City News

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

San Francisco school teachers and staff will be able to get vaccinations without delay with the recent distribution of priority codes. 
Shutterstock
SF distributes vaccine priority codes to city schools

San Francisco has received its first vaccine priority access codes from the… Continue reading

COVID restrictions have prompted a benefit or two, such as empty streets in The City. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Taking the scenic route through a pandemic

Streets of San Francisco are pleasantly free of traffic

Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina provide the voices of the title characters of “Raya and the Last Dragon.” <ins>(Courtesy Disney)</ins>
‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ boasts full-scale diversity

Though familiar in plot, Disney’s latest is buoyed by beauty, pride and power

Most Read