The New York Police Department routinely flouts a legal requirement to provide interpretation services for complainants with a limited command of English, Legal Services NYC said Wednesday.
The problem took on special relevance following this week's revelation that Guatemalan immigrant Deisy Garcia, murdered last month along with her daughters by husband Miguel Mejia Ramos, told authorities in May 2013 that she feared for her life - but her complaint was not translated into English and went ignored.
"For some time we have realized that,very often, little attention is paid to immigrants who don't speak English and who file complaints in the city's precincts, and as a consequence they receive no police protection," Amy Taylor, coordinator of Legal Services NYC's Equal Rights Initiative, told Efe.
In many cases, she said, police require that immigrants come with someone who knows English to be able to communicate with them.
Federal law mandates that government agencies must serve all citizens including those with a limited command of English, and there are also state laws that require all agencies that have contact with the public to have translators available, Taylor said.
"It's sad that a woman has to die for this need to be seen as relevant, because hundreds of women who don't speak English are at risk every day," she said.
The NYPD told Efe that after an internal review in January - the month in which Deisy Garcia was killed - members of the police met to recall that incident reports not originally made in English must be translated.
A note is also being sent to all commands about the need to find someone with a knowledge of languages to translate, when necessary, the statements of domestic-violence victims into English, the department said.
The NYPD said it currently employs a total of 1,200 interpreters who speak more than 70 different languages.
On Jan. 19, Mejia stabbed to death Deisy Garcia and the couple's two daughters, ages 2 and 1.
Mejia tried to escape to his native Mexico by road, but was stopped in Texas and extradited back to New York. EFE