Police Abuse

St. Paul Pays Settlement After Cop Maces Deaf Man

Better than beating a cripple?

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A police officer who lashed out at a deaf driver with whom he had difficulty communicating cost St. Paul, Minnesota $93,450 on Wednesday. The city council approved a settlement with Douglas D. Bahl, who had sued over a traffic stop that took place on Friday, November 17, 2006. Bahl is a high school teacher, but he can only express his thoughts fully in American Sign Language.

St. Paul Police Officer Stephen Bobrowski pulled Bahl over at around 5pm for allegedly running a red light. When the officer came to the driver's side window and began speaking, Bahl shook his head, pointed at his ear and said, "no" while indicating he wanted to use a pad of paper and pen to communicate. Instead, Officer Bobrowski began speaking louder, saying "driver's license" and making the shape of a card with his hands.

When Bahl failed to produce the license, Officer Bobrowski shoved him. Bahl leaned away, and the officer grabbed him by the wrist. Bahl took a pad of paper from the passenger's seat and wrote "joint" to signify his wrist joint was in pain. Bobrowski blasted Bahl with Mace and yanked the man out of the car to be placed under arrest. Bahl was taken to Regions Hospital for treatment of his left eye which showed significant swelling from the attack. A sign language interpreter was available, but she would only translate for hospital business, saying the police could get their own interpreter.