It Seems Like Cops Should Be Aware of the Existence of Deaf People


A deaf couple are suing after the man was jailed for 25 days in May 2010 over later dismissed domestic assault charges. During that time, the lawsuit claims, the man wasn't given access to an interpreter, nor was the woman given access to one so that she could testify that her partner had not victimized her after all.

According to CBS Denver:

The suit claims Adams County is violating the [Americans with Disabilities Act] by failing to provide an interpreter or auxiliary aids for deaf suspects during their arrest and booking process.

"To this day," [the attorney who filed the lawsuit, Kevin Williams] said, "we don't know why he was held for 25 days."

Williams told the paper the coalition recently settled a similar case against the Lakewood Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office that call for very specific policies for compliance with the ADA.

It shouldn't take the ADA for people to grasp that if a supposed victim cannot make herself understood to cops, and a supposed criminal cannot be told what the charges against him are, their basic rights are being violated. But at least they didn't end up like 61-year-old Roger Anthony, a deaf North Carolina man who was killed by a rookie police officer on November 22.


Officers were responding to a 911 call Monday night about a man who had fallen off his bicycle in the parking lot of BB&T Bank. The caller told dispatchers that the man appeared drunk and that it looked like he had hurt himself.

Officers said they repeatedly told Anthony to get off his bike, but when he didn't respond, they shocked him. Family members say Anthony had hearing problems and suffered from seizures.

It could take months for a cause of death to be confirmed, and for the moment the officer who used the stun gun on Anthony is on administrative leave. Regardless of the official cause of death, it's fundamentally ridiculous to Tase someone while they're riding a bike, particularly if you do it because you're concerned they're drunk and might fall and hurt themselves.

Everybody knows deaf and mentally disabled people exist. If there aren't police procedures about dealing with such people, then something is fundamentally flawed in police training. There's no excuse for "maybe they can't hear or understand me" not occurring to an officer. It has to occur to them, because cops have the power to deprive anyone of their life and liberty.

Reason on police, including a March Reason.tv interview with Radley Balko where he discuses (among other cases) the deaf homeless whittler who was shot by a Seattle cop for refusing to drop his (perfectly legal) knife. And of course Reason on Kelly Thomas, the mentally disabled homeless man beaten to death by Fullerton, California cops.