Guide to Language Assistance Services

Our goal is to enable accurate communication

The San Francisco Police Department wants to ensure that all individuals have equal access to the services provided by SFPD in the language of your choice.

Language assistance for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals is a free service that is part of SFPD's community policing and enforcement efforts and Department General Order 5.20 (click here to read DGO 5.20).

(The content below is available in downloadable brochures in the listed languages.)

How do I obtain Language Assistance Services?

If you can speak some English:

  1. Communicate to the officer that you need an interpreter. Say, “I would like an interpreter, and I speak [language or dialect].”
  2. The officer may also have you identify the language you speak, using a Language Identification Card that lists many different languages.
  3. Find the language you speak on the card and point it out to the officer.
  4. The officer will then call for an interpreter or use the language line to get an interpreter.

If you do not speak English:

  1. The officer will show you a Language Identification Card.
  2. Find the language you speak on the card and point it out to the officer.
  3. The officer will then call for a qualified bilingual officer or a telephone interpreter to help.

Can my child/family member, or a bystander interpret for me?

  • SFPD officers will not use family members, including children, or bystanders as an interpreter unless there is an emergency. Emergencies include a threat to life, safety, or property.

What kind of language services does SFPD provide?

  • Certified bilingual officers who speak Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Russian.
  • Access to interpreters through a telephone interpreter system for other languages including Tagalog, Hindi, American Sign Language (ASL) if a certified bilingual officer is not available.
  • Your rights (Miranda Rights) will be read to you in your primary language by a qualified bilingual officer or telephone interpreter.
  • Interviews with the police will be conducted in your primary language by a qualified bilingual officer or telephone interpreter.
  • Written forms will be provided or read to you in your primary language by a qualified bilingual officer or telephone interpreter.

Language assistance is especially important when you are:

  • Interviewed by officers.
  • Read your Miranda Rights.
  • Given forms to fill out.
  • Formally questioned.

I know some English. Do I really need an interpreter?

You may understand or speak some English, but you may still want an interpreter. Interpreters can help you:

  • Prevent misunderstandings.
  • Give accurate information.
  • Understand your legal rights.
  • Request services such as victim's services & translated forms.

Who can obtain language services?

Language services are provided to anyone who is a limited English proficient (LEP) person. This means that English is not your primary language and you may have difficulties reading, speaking or understanding English.

Will I be causing an inconvenience or problems if I ask for an interpreter?

Everyone has the right to effective and accurate communication with the police, and SFPD wants to assist.


SFPD Language Access Liaison Officer
Community Engagement Division
3401 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
[email protected]

Produced by the San Francisco Police Department in cooperation with the Language Access Coalition

The Language Access Coalition is a network of language access advocates that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Asian Pacific Islander Youth and Advocacy Network, Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Community Youth Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, La Raza Centro Legal, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Legal Services for Children, Department of Police Accountability, People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights, Safety Network Program, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, San Francisco District Attorney's Office, San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission, San Francisco Public Defender's Office, San Francisco Youth Commission, Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center, and Youth Law Center.

San Francisco Police Department

Safety with Respect for All.