Police & Deaf Citizen Contact

Police & Deaf Citizen Contact

In this day and age,
police and citizen contact has been
under intense scrutiny. With many reported
altercations taking place when a citizen is
pulled over, there has been a growing concern within the Deaf
community over police interaction with
Deaf individuals. What officers
might describe as “failure to respond to
verbal commands, aggressive hand signaling
or resisting arrest,” could simply be a
communication breakdown. To help with
communication barriers, several states have
issued deaf and hard of hearing
drivers cards. For example, in
Michigan, the Michigan Department of Civil
Rights (MDCR) issues cards to drivers with
various pictures on them. The officer or driver
can point to pictures to ask questions, or
explain the reason they’re being
pulled over. You can contact MDCR and request a card be mailed
to you, or simply go on their website and print
one off yourself. Another individual
has created a “Pullover Pal,” a
product you can hang over your car
window for an approaching
officer to see. The pullover pal
holds all your important information such as your license, registration,
and proof of insurance. It also alerts the officer you are deaf
or hard of hearing. We contacted our local
police department to find out more tips on
how to interact with police officers and to
get their opinion on these
communication tools. My name is Barron Brown,
I am the community engagement officer with
the city of Ferndale. I’ve been a police officer here in Ferndale
for 22 years. And actually, I’ve worked for the
city since ’87. You know, police
officers train to watch people’s hands. Um in almost every
instance, when somebody attacks a police officer, they have to
use their hands. Especially when they’re
sitting in a car. Police officers, as
they approach a vehicle, are always gonna be looking for where the
occupant’s hands are. Are they being kept still? A lot of movement
in a car is a danger sign…CAN be a
danger sign for us. It raises our
danger meter. I’m not saying you
should have your hands up or anything like
that, but you should definitely have your
hands on the steering wheel, possibly even
folded in your lap. Don’t be moving around
and grabbing things, wait for the officer to make requests before
you start moving. I’m amazed that we
finally have a product like this that is easily
understood, conveys a very deep message, with
just a few finger points. I think what a
police, what most police officers would, would
prefer is if you had it in a readily accessible
location, where when you see the officer get
behind you, and you, [heavy sigh] have that feeling that
you’re gonna get stopped, that you can grab it
and just hold it in your hand, and that way
when the officer comes up to you, you can
maybe be holding it, and he can, he or she
can see right away that you’re Deaf or
Hard of Hearing. What I would prefer as a
police officer is point at the glove box, point
at the center console, so that I know where you’re gonna go,
and then grab that. I’m Deaf, I’m
going to reach over here and grab
something, okay? We train to deal with all kinds of uh,
groups of citizens. You know maybe it is, we
are going through kind of a departmental
revolution in our policies and procedures
and training, and, as we talked about this a
little bit, it might be a good opportunity to,
have a little training. And make our officers
aware of the fact that these are out there
and what they mean and how easy
they are to use. And the training we
do get is limited to you know just be aware
of what’s going on. Give people a second to
try and explain why they aren’t following your
directions or why they can’t follow
your directions. If you are taking your
time and you’re in a situation where you
CAN take your time, most police citizen contacts,
we ARE in a position where we can
take our time. The officer should
be allowing that communication to take
place and picking up on the fact that well maybe
this person isn’t responding to me because they’re Deaf or Hard
of Hearing, you know. We’re very comfortable
looking inward at the agency and trying to see
what we can do better, and then attacking those
issues and like I said this is a good
opportunity to maybe take a look at this
and see if it’s not something we need to deliver to every
single officer. The Pullover Pal I think a good thing to keep
in here is the normal paperwork that an
officer would ask for. Proof of insurance,
registration… I wouldn’t keep
your license in here. I wouldn’t
keep a CPL in here. I’d be careful about
keeping items with personal information, you know like never keep
your title in your car. Just keep the basics,
and even maybe handwrite a card, or type out
a card that says if you’re not gonna keep
your proof of insurance or registration in
here, just a short, “my proof of insurance or registration are
in my glove box. When you request me to get those items,
I’ll get those items.” Something that, that
telegraphs a movement so that the officer can carry on with
this traffic stop like they do 99 out of
100 traffic stops. That’s where we both
drive away, you not as happy as you were maybe,
but at least still smiling, and the
officer smiling as well. Thank you to Sergeant
Barron Brown for taking the time to
chat with us. If you get pulled over, remember to remain in
the car, always keep your hands visible, and
if you need to reach for something, be sure to
let the officer know.


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    James Dunphy

    I do not agree at all. Why do police expecting us to ? They could learn all langaure. All of it. Not just to speak but to signs too… they trained police to deal hearing people… that it they always left deaf people out. Never trained them about them so… dont expect deaf people to fix it for police. They cpuld fix it themselve. They killed more then 10 deaf people cross america and canada now they learning fix it their mistakes later… i dont agree. No exause for them said to us ohh we are sorry. We fix now too late for that now. 10 deaf people already killed so.

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    Kati Walker

    One point about the cards. If someone being pulled over, bends down to get the card that says Deaf or HH, the police may think they are reaching for something like a gun. The police may shoot! I hope the police can be better trained AND held accountable when they make mistakes.

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    Steven Hermit

    These cards dont work, if you want to see how effective they are, search youtube for "Pearl Pearson"

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    Jaspreet Kaur

    Help me am harwinder Kaur am India my husband name jaspal Singh ratual Khalsa u s a settle my husband all family members u s a settle my husband father track number wp 79188 my husband contact number+12092787388 am no call no message no contact am big problem please help me am contact number 98159.15506. Rest me big criminal Jaspal Singh ratual Khalsa

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