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Posts made in May, 2014

By on May 22, 2014 in Civil Rights, Communication, Police, Traffic Ticket | 2 comments

As regular readers know, I enjoy discussing the interactions between police and ordinary citizens. I care about those interactions because the stakes can be very high. People can be arrested, or even killed, when a police encounter goes south. So I was very interested when a video by Marlee Matlin came across my desk. Marlee Matlin is a deaf actress, as well as the wife of a police officer. Her video is directed to the deaf community, and gives good advice on how, during a police encounter, individuals who are deaf can do their best to escape unscathed because of, or despite, their unique challenges. Even if you are not deaf, the video is well worth a look:   For those unable to view the video, Ms. Matlin recommends that as soon as possible the office is informed about the citizen’s disability. Once the officer has arrived and sees the deaf person’s hands, then indicate in some way the deaf status. If an arrest occurs, Ms. Matlin recommends trying to have handcuffs placed on the front so the person can still provide limited communication (standard policy is for people to be cuffed with their hands at their back). Ms. Matlin talks about what causes problems during an interaction between a deaf person. Deaf people may use their hands or even touch to communicate, which can raise the tension of police officers, who tend to be unhappy when they are touched or when someone doesn’t respond to a verbal command. In one way I was frustrated that a deaf person would have to change their behavior from what comes naturally to them given their culture and/or disability. It seems unfair for the officer to initiate the interaction and dictate the mechanisms of that interaction. Realistically, though, these guidelines are for everyone’s safety. The officer does deserve to be safe during a stop, and a citizen stopped by a police officer also deserves to a respectful, calm interaction. Ms. Matlin’s advice seems well-suited for all those goals. Still I was curious how often police officers interact with members of the deaf community, and what kind of training officers receive. I reached out to Patrick Michaud of the Seattle Police Department (SPD)...

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