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Justice Department Opens Inquiry Into Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the Franklin County Sheriff's Office after complaints brought forth by the Ohio Hispanic Coalition, 10TV's Maureen Kocot reported on Wednesday.

The complaint stems from a 4-year-old girl's drowning in May 2007.

The child's Spanish-speaking stepfather called 911 after finding the girl in a pond, but dispatchers could not communicate with him. Dispatchers were able to get in touch with an interpreter, but the father never understood that help was on the way and he drove the girl to the hospital where she died, Kocot reported.

The complaint alleges that dispatchers "took too long to understand or communicate" with the girl's father.

The complaint also referred to a September 2004 fire that claimed the lives of 10 Spanish-speaking people. The coalition claims that 911 dispatchers failed to communicate with callers in their "primary language."

As part of the investigation, the U.S. Justice Department has requested a copy of the 911 call made the day of the drowning, a copy of the sheriff's agreement with the interpreter service, and copies of any other complaints of discrimination, Kocot reported.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said it took less than one minute for first responders to reach the scene of the deadly fire. It also said dispatchers immediately sent a medic to the reported drowning and then contact an interpreter.

In addition, the sheriff's office said it has added a language line that allows dispatchers to access interpreters of 173 languages with the touch of a button.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has 60 days to respond to the U.S. Justice Department's inquiry.

Watch 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for additional information.

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