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New Orleans Police Department Public Information Office


February 23, 2016


Program is part of on-going effort to continue to build trust between the community and police

NEW ORLEANS—For the first time in the history of the department, the NOPD is building a team of bilingual officers to improve communication and strengthen relationships with limited English speaking communities across the city. This week, the Civil Service Department, in partnership with a local registered interpreter, is holding the first certification exam for Spanish-speaking officers. Exams for additional languages, including Vietnamese, are expected to follow. Once certified, officers will be eligible to earn a five percent pay increase for using their language skills on the job. Officers serving as bilingual officers will be assigned to police districts across the city and will be called on to communicate in the field with limited English speaking residents and visitors who interact with police.


Learn more about the New Orleans Welcoming City initiative


“Overcoming language barriers in the field is a major win for our officers and members of our limited English speaking communities. That’s why we’re working diligently to create a comprehensive solution that will improve language access for all communities across the department,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. “This team of certified bilingual officers will allow our officers to do their jobs safely and effectively. At the same time, it will build trust between police and limited English speaking residents and visitors. They will be more likely to report a crime and participate in police investigations.”


In addition to the certified bilingual officer program, the NOPD has taken significant steps to improve language access for non-English speaking residents and visitors who interact with police since Chief Harrison started in 2014, including:


Equipping officers with translation devices in the field

  • Electronic Translators, known as Enabling Language Service Anywhere (ELSA) devices, are available in all eight police districts in the city.
  • With the push of a button, officers who need translation services quickly can connect to a live language interpreter through a wireless network in more than 180 languages and dialects.
  • The devices are available to officers 24/7.

Tracking information on victims and offenders who need language assistance

  • The Electronic Police Reporting (EPR) system includes a checkbox for officers to note whether each individual victim and/or offender had limited English proficiency.
  • The report also gives the responding officer an opportunity to indicate the language spoken by the individual as well as the language access accommodations made.
  • This enables NOPD to hold itself accountable for providing proper language access to community members by documenting all actions taken to accommodate limited English speakers.

Translating public information in other languages at NOPD facilities

  • Each police district, and other public facilities including City Hall, has information on the Consent Decree as well as how to report complaints against the police publicly available in Spanish and Vietnamese versions.
  • The NOPD is also partnering with Loyola University to begin translating NOPD forms and documents for victims with limited-English capabilities.

Training new recruits on interacting with the Spanish-speaking community

  • All new NOPD recruits receive a week-long training on interacting with the Spanish-speaking community. The training includes commonly used phrases and skills on how to build trust within the community when responding to calls for service.

Aggressively recruiting bilingual police officers

  • As part of the on-going “Get Behind the Badge” campaign, the department targets local and regional Spanish and Vietnamese media outlets and runs advertisements in both languages to attract more bilingual officers to the force.
  • The effort is showing early signs of success as more than 10% of the past two recruit classes were Hispanic recruits.

Revised bias-free immigration policy focuses on protecting public safety and building community trust

This month, the NOPD finalized a revised policy on how officers must address immigration status when providing police services to individuals across the city. The updated policy establishes a clear set of guidelines for officers that focus on protecting public safety and building trust between the community and the NOPD. The Department of Justice and the federal Consent Decree Monitor have approved the revised policy.


Read the updated policy Chapter 41.6.1


Chief Harrison added, “The NOPD’s primary mission is to make our city safe, and this policy directs our officers to focus on public safety for everyone in our city and aims to improve the relationship between officers and the community. At the same time, any person in the city of New Orleans who commits a crime will be held accountable by our criminal justice system. If you break the law, you will face consequences.”


"The new Immigration Status policy is a positive step forward in creating better relations and restoring trust between the NOPD and the immigrant community in New Orleans," said Santos Alvarado, founding member, Congress of Day Laborers.  "We are not asking for preferential treatment, only for equal treatment regardless of the color of our skin or our country of origin, and this policy moves us in the right direction. We know this policy is the right path forward to a more inclusive and safer community for everyone."


Training on the new policy will begin immediately at roll calls throughout police districts as well as through daily training briefings through the NOPD Compliance Bureau. It will become effective on Sunday, February 28.

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