Debate and Discussion

Arresting the Deaf by the police over misunderstandings.
Aurora Moon at 2:54AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid:1121824

be warned, the article in the link is kind of a long one. but it also have videos to back up the article.

But it's important that you read all of it to get the full understanding of what really happens with the deaf community and the police.

This way you can tell me your full feedback of what you think would help resolve those problems between the deaf people and the police.

or even whenever the policeman in question was in the right or not.

I'm deaf myself, so in some ways this issue strikes a cord with me way deeper than it would be for a hearing person.

hell, I've even gotten in trouble with the police a few times due to a few misunderstandings.

Even with police who knew survival level sign (only the basics), they can make plenty of mistakes if they are not a pro at it. A lot of sign language have words that looks very similar to each other, and can be often mistaken easily in terms of different meanings.

like this one segment from the article:
Smith says that he's become increasingly frustrated by the communication problems that plague the relationship between deaf Austinites and police. In one particular incident, he says, police were called to the Texas School for the Deaf to handle a situation between an adult student and his mother. TSD requires a certified interpreter to handle all communications between students and school security guards or outside agency police, so Smith was paged to handle the interpretation. When he met the student and the APD officer, he said the officer dismissed him, saying that he would handle the communication because he'd been “certified” in ASL by Wess Smith. Apparently the man did not recognize Smith, who'd conducted his language assessment for APD. “And he dismisses me. … I said, ‘Okay, first of all, let me introduce myself: I’m Wess Smith.'” He said the officer still tried to dismiss his services. “He should've been thrilled to have it. But it was more about him than about the situation,” he said. “Where does that mentality come from? That you're more important than the situation?”

Since that episode, Smith says, he's been wary of performing assessments for APD officers. He tries to make clear in each assessment how strong the officer's skills are and what their level of proficiency is. In an assessment example he provided to the Chronicle (with the officer's identity redacted), Smith noted that the officer's skill level was that of “survival”: The officer can communicate basic concepts at a “slow-to-moderate rate” and “with many sign vocabulary errors.” Among the signing errors the officer in question made, the assessment notes, were signing “jail” instead of “wait,” and “fuck you” instead of “OK.” Whether APD decides that an officer is proficient enough to receive bilingual pay is strictly up to the city, says Smith; it is not up to Smith or TSD. “Every report gets this disclaimer: This is a communication assessment. This is not an interpreting assessment.”

There's a difference between communication and interpretation. Knowing some ASL, which is a foreign language with its own unique structure, or how to competently finger-spell English words are important skills. But “there is a difference between having the skills to communicate and having the skills to interpret for a legal setting,” says Smith. “If you get into a little fender-bender and you have an officer who can sign, how great it is that you have a police officer who can communicate!” he says. “But there is a time when they have to stop” – when officers need to realize that they've reached the limit of their communication abilities and need to call in a professional for help. “And I don't think they know when to stop.”

in fact, on one occasion I got into trouble with the police because I got upset over some mistake that one policeman made in his attempt to communicate with me. He meant to say something else entirely but he just came off as completely rude and condescending to me because of some wrong wording on his part.

I got upset, and then he misunderstood why I was acting so upset, and thought I was threatening him when I wasn't. I was just trying to tell him what happened and tell him off at the same time.

So I got arrested for no real good reason.

To be fair, in some areas the police have honestly tried to be accommodating about everything. But sadly, the laws that passed to prevent such pointless drama and misunderstanding from ever happening aren't enforced.

and even worse, a lot of the police aren't even briefed in their training about what they are supposed to do if they have an deaf suspect, etc. So they aren't even aware about the laws concerning the deaf people and the police.

and because of this, some situations that was just a silly misunderstanding sometimes end up being a tragic story for the deaf community.
such as some deaf kid who was killed by the police because he did not understand what was going on.

http://deaftvchannel.com/blog/shocking-news/deaf-native-american-man-killed-by-cops


So as an result, there are many deaf people who are truly afraid of police and do not trust them at all.

In fact, most deaf people even expect there to be trouble with the police once they show up.

which is rather sad, really.

So this got me thinking…. how would you fix this situation if you could? Since anything that they tried to do to fix it up above did not work.
I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:11AM
Genejoke at 4:13AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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Still reading the article but the first wrong thing the girls did was not pay enough attention to the officer. If the police want to talk to you stop and talk. You don't stand there and text(or try and call someone) or try to walk away, just talk to them and deal with it and they will likely be on their merry way.

That said it does sound like the officer were a bit dense too. They have a policy for dealing with the deaf so they should adhere to it.

Both parties should have shown more common sense, the article suggests this is a common problem so why weren't both more prepared for such an encounter?

I don't agree with how the officer handled it but the girl was an idiot for walking away from an officer before he was finished with his inquiries.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Genejoke at 4:23AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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As for how I would fix the problem, well it's an awareness thing really. the deaf community should go to lengths to ensure that they know how best to handle such situations and how to ask for an interpreter, the police should probably be heavily involved with that too.

As for the police, well they should work on their communication that's for sure. they are probably better at handling drunks and mental patients than deaf people. I can't believe it is so hard to grasp, communication works on so many levels and surely the police have a large amount training in that and even without knowledge of sign he should have been able to handle it better.

Should all police be fluent in sign? Ideally but it's a little unrealistic but if they can learn some very basics that cannot be misinterpreted and have a better policy that they stick to it might go a long way.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Aurora Moon at 6:22AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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Genejoke
Still reading the article but the first wrong thing the girls did was not pay enough attention to the officer. If the police want to talk to you stop and talk. You don't stand there and text(or try and call someone) or try to walk away, just talk to them and deal with it and they will likely be on their merry way.

That said it does sound like the officer were a bit dense too. They have a policy for dealing with the deaf so they should adhere to it.

Both parties should have shown more common sense, the article suggests this is a common problem so why weren't both more prepared for such an encounter?

I don't agree with how the officer handled it but the girl was an idiot for walking away from an officer before he was finished with his inquiries.


well– a lot of deaf people use the text feature to communicate with the person in front of them if they don't have a paper or pen. They then show the person in front of them what's on their cellphone in terms of text without actually sending that text to somebody else.

this is often a very common practice amongst deaf people. She very well could have been trying to formulate a proper sentence on her cellphone to show and tell the policeman that everything was fine.

As for her walking away…. well, I hate to prepuate the sterotype that being deaf equals retardation or some other mental disorders. As seeing there are so many deaf people out there who are equally intelligent as any normal hearing person. But the truth is that some deaf people were born not only with deafness, but with things like autism, mild retardation, etc if they were a premature baby or had health problems at birth.

ALSO… a lot of deaf people often lead very sheltered lives thanks to the protectiveness of family members who thought they were being good parents to a “disabled” child. (oh, how I hate that word).

So often those sheltered deaf people end up being working adults who pretty much are like 6-year-olds emotionally and also equals one in terms of their naivety.

Seriously, I had an deaf associate who was like this. Her parents were so overprotective of her that they basically cut her off from the whole world until she was 18 years old and going off to college. I HAD to teach her that drugs were bad, all about the bad people out there who would exploit her or rape her if she did the wrong thing, etc. Basic things that any teenage girl should had learned ages ago.

So it's possible that she literally didn't know any better. It was repeated at least twice in the article that this deaf woman never encountered police before or even talked to one before. So I get the feeling that her parents were one of those overprotective ones who thought they were being good parents but only harmed her emotional and mental growth in the long run.

edit:

also–
He says he saw them once, and then again, being “animated”. He didn't say he saw them assaulting each other. When he noticed that they ceased their activities and ‘just stood there’ why didn't he just continue to observe them? The officer escalated things by wanting to know, “…What's going on with you two?”. If he had to pose the question, he was, obviously, not observing any illegal behavior/activity.

It appears the officer had already made up his mind that their “animated” conversation was in fact a violation of some law; ‘disorderly conduct’? As another poster mentioned, if you're not in the habit of breaking the law and running into angry cops, one ASSUMES he or she can easily and calmly explain and apologize for any alleged “questionable” behavior while in public.

The hearing female attempted to communicate that they were just talking…but no, the officer knew better. Fail.

This officer wanted those two women off the street, period. He was tired of watching their little argument and figured he'd teach them to never walk and animate, in public, like that again!!

The fact that he discovered that one of the ladies was deaf only seemed to fuel his rage-filled, half-witted attempt at teaching the women a “lesson”.

That's just the way I see it.

I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:11AM
Genejoke at 6:59AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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Ah the text thing makes a lot of sense, or would is not for the calling her mother stuff.

The sheltered thing may explain it, although this ties in with my other point about awareness.

It is hard, I used to have a lot of encounters with deaf people in one of my old jobs and it was never that difficult to communicate with them even without sign, granted many could lip read or had partial hearing but the few that had nothing (or as near as) were often amused at my attempts to get the message across. I think though it did help that I was in a position where I knew I would come across them so I was prepared for it.

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Aurora Moon at 7:51AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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It also probably helped you that you were most likely in a job where you didn't have to be on constant watch for any criminals,etc.

I do wonder at times if the stress of being a policeman actually affects their judgment at times.

I've even had a policeman think I was flashing gang signs and therefore actually thought I was a gang member. so he was interrogating me and were in such a intense state of focus in looking for anything illegal on me that it actually took me EIGHT minutes to get it though his head that I wasn't a gang member… I WAS DEAF!

It's a sad world where gang signs are apparently so similar to sign language that Deaf people could get in trouble with both Gangs and the police alike.
http://tafkac.org/death/gangs_kill_sign_language_users.html

Also, there's been way too many incidents where the police yelled to a deaf person to stop, etc. But the deaf person didn't see them, didn't hear them and just kept on walking…… only to get shot in the back. in a lot of those cases, they often die. like with that deaf native american who got shot in the chest six times.

the police assume that they were being belligerent, outright ignoring them… they get mad and then overreact like that. they don't automatically think that if somebody is being unresponsive to their commands, that they had to be deaf.
I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:11AM
Genejoke at 8:37AM, Dec. 8, 2010
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Someone
It's a sad world where gang signs are apparently so similar to sign language that Deaf people could get in trouble with both Gangs and the police alike

That does sound a bit like an urban legend but I don't know much about gang signs and culture beyond GTA and the news. It isn't a thing in my neck of the woods, but then I do live in Britains happiest(allegedly) townhttp://www.metro.co.uk/news/40355-britains-happiest-town-revealed
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Aurora Moon at 7:54PM, Dec. 8, 2010
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Some ASL (American Sign Language) and SEE (sign exact English) signs do tend to look similar to gang signs.

http://www.knowgangs.com/gang_resources/handsigns/menu_006.htm take this one for instance…. to this gang they're using this as an ID for their gang. the ones where they use one hand.

however, to the deaf we use that exact sign to say “I love you”.

They also use the deaf alphabet for silent communication too as well… which is why some people think that a lot of sign language is gang signs.
I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:11AM
Genejoke at 11:44PM, Dec. 8, 2010
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So essentially you have these gangbangers saying/signing they love each other and they probably don't even realise it.

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:33PM
Aurora Moon at 4:53AM, Dec. 9, 2010
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that's one way to look at it, yeah. *laughs*
I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:11AM

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