PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Stepping up its efforts to communicate with the deaf, be they criminal suspects or victims, the Philadelphia Police Department signed a settlement Thursday that includes nearly $100,000 in relief.
The U.S. Department of Justice noted that its investigation was inspired by the complaint by a deaf detainee but that it ultimately “interviewed a number of deaf individuals — ranging from detainees to crime victims — who contended that PPD denied them effective communication.”
In 2016, the chief of the DOJ’s Disability Rights Section wrote a letter to the PPD recounting a number of stories told to investigators. One deaf detainee reported that he was unable to communicate in sign language with officers because his hands were restrained behind his back. Investigators also spoke with a group of deaf roommates who reported that an officer insisted on speaking to them, believing that they should be able to read his lips, despite their preference to have communication in writing.
As part of a three-year settlement announced today, Philadelphia police say they will adopt policies and procedures on effective communication in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The department will also implement appropriate auxiliary services, train personnel on proper ADA procedures and provide deaf-accessible phone equipment.
Eight aggrieved individuals will also recover a total of $97,500 as part of the settlement.
“Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are entitled to full and equal opportunities to communicate with police officers and to benefit from police services,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in a statement. “We commend the Philadelphia Police Department, which is taking steps to ensure that Philadelphia’s deaf and hard of hearing community members are provided effective communication and auxiliary services.”