Hearing Impaired Woman’s Police Disaster
A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the Seattle Police and their policies regarding the deaf community. My post emphasized the struggles of the deaf population in these interactions, since conveying the language issue for deaf people is different than for non-English speakers. In 2010 partially-deaf woodcarver John Williams had a tragic encounter with Seattle Police that ended with Mr. Williams being shot and killed. Aside from that, and perhaps because of that, law enforcement in this area has not made any news regarding their interactions with members of the deaf community. To which we are all thankful.
Unfortunately that’s not the case elsewhere. Last year NYPD officers arrested deaf woman Diana Williams. Although the police were on some notice she had a hearing disability, they refused her requests for an interpreter. She was jailed for 24 hours without the ability to communicate with anyone, before ultimately being released. She later sued the NYPD for her experiences alleging, among other things, the NYPD violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her lawsuit went well.
In any police interaction, it behooves both sides to effectively communicate. A citizen interacting with a police officer should remain calm, polite, and generally decline to answer potentially incriminating questions. They should certainly never get aggressive.
But police officers have responsibilities too. They need to actively work to ensure the rights of the citizens they are interacting with are protected. Not every person walking on the street is able to communicate in a way you or I are used to. Police, when exercising their powers, are required to accommodate the existence of people from across the spectrum of humanity. Failing to do so can be expensive, or tragic.
Sometimes police interactions lead to arrests and criminal charges. If you or someone you know are facing these kinds of issues, feel free to give me a call.