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Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Training

Contacting the Hearing Impaired

Keep these five factors in mind when dealing with the hearing impaired.

September 20, 2013  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.
Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.
As a patrol officer, you must provide the same level of service to deaf subjects that you would to others. Stay on track with our five-step guide. For the full story, read our feature, "Dealing With the Deaf."

  1. The Americans with Disability Act, established in 1990, requires you to accommodate people who are deaf, mute, or hard of hearing. Failure to do so can result in complaints, lawsuits, and even consent decrees.
  2. Wrongful arrests, failure to reasonably accommodate, or a failure to train officers make up the majority of ADA complaints against agencies.
  3. You might have to provide an interpreter for long or complicated transactions.
  4. Don't cover your mouth or chew gum when interviewing a person with hearing impairment.
  5. Remember that Sign Language is a language all unto itself and should be treated as such.

Amaury Murgado is a special operations lieutenant with the Osceola County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office. He is a retired Army Reserve master sergeant, has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, and has been a lifelong student of martial arts.

Tags: Deaf Subjects, How-To Guides, Best Practices


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Ima Leprechaun @ 10/8/2013 8:04 PM

My Sergeant stumbled onto two young men stealing concrete blocks at a constuction site one night. They were driving a Gremilin so and had grossly overloaded the vehicle so the body was resting on the back tires, they were not going anywhere. He puled up and hit them with take down lights the brights on the head lights, his spotlight and threw on the beacons. Both young men stopped and faced him and began walking toward him. I pulled up as back-up moments before the Sarg had to make a decision. He was screaming as loud as he coold for them to get down but they kept walking at him. The couldn't see him just the light. He was ready to fire gun drawn and screming for them to stop. For whatever reason he stepped enough forward they could see him and his gun and they dropped to the ground immediately. As it turned out both were brothers and deaf from birth. Thankfully they saw he was a cop and everything went fine from there. You just never know but I could easily see how that could have went badly when looking back.

Ima Leprechaun @ 10/8/2013 8:17 PM

Later at the P.D The Sarge was still a bit rattled and we interviewed both men in seperate rooms. Both young men could read and write so we were just getting basic ID info until our intrepreter arrived. Much to my amuzement I could hear the Sergeant screaming the fifth ammendment rights at his prisoner in the other room. I pulled him aside and told him he might need to chill out before he loses his voice because no matter how loud he yelled at the kid he isn't going to hear him. We didn't need statements we had their car, the concrete blocks and them, there were no missing pieces. But we made sure while using an terpreter all their rights were explained. Also the interpreter called their Mom to come bail them out. Their mother was not deaf.

Ima Leprechaun @ 10/8/2013 8:22 PM

Any deaf person that possess a Drivers License has to be able to read and write. Writing everything down is a reasonable accommdation. I had many fun back and forth chats using my note pad during minor traffic violations. Everybody just wants to be treated the same as everybody else. Most Police however never think of such simple solutions.

A.T. @ 2/20/2014 8:10 AM

There should be a simple universal sign taught by the deaf community to the officers on how to get a clue that a suspect is deaf. OTOH, A deaf person should also be taught (more so in view of their disability) some common sense, that when a police car approaches them with their emergency lights, walking up towards it is not the thing to do. Just stay put, give the signal "I am deaf", make no threatening moves and wait for further instructions, perhaps simple hand motions, or written ones, for the moment (?). It might take a while, if at all, to get an interpreter on scene,
Anything else perceived as non-compliant or even threatening and the suspects stand a chance of getting sprayed, tasered or even shot.
Then the lawsuits begin, but what is an officer to do? I have had suspects approach me in spite of me telling them to stop, pretending to not hear me and I had to back behind cover not knowing if they were really deaf or not. It turned out they simply didn't speak english

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