King County Sheriff's Office to develop language access program

The King County Sheriff’s Office plans to develop and implement a language access program following a complaint filed with the Department of Justice and United States Attorney’s Office against the King County Sheriff’s Office and Burien Police Department, alleging discrimination against an individual with limited English proficiency.

According to the Department of Justice, the complaint involved a community-based organization that raised concerns about an incident between a sheriff’s office deputy and a resident with limited English proficiency.

According to memorandum documents, the Department of Justice agreed with the sheriff’s office that the development of the language access program would serve as a resolution to the complaint.

“In lieu of further investigation, [the King County Sheriff’s Office] agreed to take proactive and voluntary steps to ensure meaningful access to individuals with [limited English proficiency,]” stated a memorandum of agreement between the sheriff’s office and Department of Justice.

According to the agreement, the negotiated program will include a language access policy; procedures; a data collection and reporting process; development of language access resources; community outreach; training to ensure consistent and effective delivery of language assistance; and a complaint process.

According to documents, the agreement, signed Feb. 7, 2024, to develop a language access program, serves as a legally binding agreement between the Department of Justice and King County Sheriff’s Office to avoid the burdens and expenses of further investigation and potential enforcement action for violations of the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The agreement includes the appointment of a “Language Access Program Manager” by May 7, 2024, in addition to “worksite Language Access Program coordinators.”

According to the agreement, the program manager will serve as a resource and coordinator for the sheriff’s office and develop the initial plan to implement and coordinate services for individuals with limited English proficiency. Additionally, the program manager will evaluate the language needs of the sheriff’s office on an annual basis at minimum and track demographic trends in service areas and arrange language access training.

The agreement specifies the identification of a language access program coordinator per precinct and contract city within a year of the agreement to provide information and support regarding the program.

As per the agreement, the King County Sheriff’s Office will implement measures of the agreement in phases over the span of two years, with the Department of Justice to monitor progress through status reports and meetings.