Double Injustice: Deaf on Deaf Crime

Over the past few years, I’ve been asked to provide language evaluations in cases that involved crimes involving Deaf people against each other, typically domestic violence cases. In several of the cases, the Deaf person with better speech skills would gain control over the police questioning when the arrest occurred, with police becoming more sympathetic to the abuser rather than the victim. The police have an easier time “listening” to the Deaf person who has the better English speaking skills and no sign language interpreter is present to give the “other side of the story.” In one case, a hard of hearing individual with substantial hearing accused her former Deaf lover of writing threatening text messages which he clearly did not write as he did not have the language skills. These cases underscore the importance of police to summon a sign language interpreter regardless of the speech skills of one of the Deaf persons involved. If they fail to do this, a “double injustice” occurs. For one, they violate ADA in not providing effective communication and 2) they fail to gather accurate and non-biased information about the crime that took place.

2 thoughts on “Double Injustice: Deaf on Deaf Crime

  1. I imagine that this would be a very difficult problem for the police when they encounter angry, defensive, or frightened deaf people. We should have a routine for handling these problems. The difficulty as I see it is that there are relatively few deaf people dealing with officials so that instructions and protocols get buried in the in-boxes that the police etc. have to deal with. I would like to see better training at the academy level so that officers cold figure out the needs of deaf people as they come up.

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    1. Training at the police academies would be productive solution to the problem to begin the education process for police/sheriffs when encountering this low-incidence population of deaf individuals. There already exists excellent polices in place for Colorado police/sheriff due to past successful lawsuits. And there is evidence that police/sheriffs are taking the training as training logs have been examined on subsequent cases. However, just as you mentioned, police do not encounter deaf persons often so they forget their deafness training. Also, stereotypes about deaf people persist which clouds the police/sheriff officers judgement when they are on a crime scene with deaf persons… such as deaf people as these fallacies: all deaf people can lipread, can read, etc. So they go back to “old behaviors” of not calling an interpreter or forgetting the steps that have been set up in policies on exactly who to contact.

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