By Jean F. Andrews
In their popular 1960’s folk song, Peter, Paul and Mary sing the ballad, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” In the ballad, is the echoing refrain, “When Will They Ever Learn,” that points a firm finger at a society engaged in the Viet Nam War, wondering sadly, Where have all the flowers, soldiers and graveyards gone? This sweet refrain, can also be applied to the many police departments across the country in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado who repeatedly refuse to give deaf suspects and inmates sign language interpreters during questioning as well as during important events during the arrest and jail intake, processing, orientation and during needed educational and rehabilitation services. Consequently, across the country, police departments have repeated lost legal cases and have had to pay hefty settlements costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is an easy solution.
Simply make it the police department policy to do the following as recommended by the Department of Justice.
A police officer, upon discovering an individual is deaf, by law, must offer the individual an opportunity to request a sign language interpreter. One way the officer may do so is by providing the deaf individual with a visual representation (illustrated below) allowing the deaf individual to make a choice. It depicts the ADA recognized symbol for sign language and includes two hands signing “yes” and “no”. The deaf individual can select “yes” or “no” by pointing to, circling, or signing the choice.
Deaf individuals too would be wise to copy this visual and keep in their wallet in the event they are stopped by a policeman.
Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.
- English: A Major Obstacle For the Deaf Suspect and Deaf Inmate (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Deaf Suspect Gets Settlement (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Englewood settles with deaf suspect who didn’t get interpreter (denverpost.com)
- Sign Language Interpreters (signsoflifeasl.wordpress.com)
- Booking, Medical/Psychological intake, and Classification: Why a Live Interpreter is Critical (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- ADA ignored by Denver Law Enforcement (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Bics & Calp (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- How do you Treat Deaf People with Psychological Disorders? (handstalktoo.wordpress.com)
- Feds Probe Denver for Violating Deaf Prisoner Rights (coloradoindependent.com)
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