Deaf community members team up with Davenport Police to improve communication

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- When driving, getting pulled over by police is enough to make anyone nervous.

But for Dirk Hillard there's an added stress when getting behind the wheel because he's deaf.

"In my experience, when I've been pulled over I've had that extra anxiety of worry that I won't be able to communicate with a police officer," said Hillard.

After he was involved in a minor car accident, their was a lack of communication between him and officers.

"When police arrived on scene they weren't able to communicate with me so only the other person's information was made into the (...) police report," said Hillard.

Both local situations like these and other serious national incidents are a growing concern for the deaf community nationwide.

"Even the small miscommunications can lead to big consequences," said Hillard.

According to the ADA, police officers aren't required to provide a sign language interpreter all the time when interacting but it does depend on the situation.

To break the chain of miscommunication Hillard says he was contacted by the City of Davenport Rights Commission to help provide training classes to local police. After speaking with Davenport Police they decided to try out a new pilot program to improve communication.

"We have to make sure that we are communicating and we get that right," says Major Jeff Bladel, Davenport Police.

Bladel says they already provide officers training on how to deal with the deaf or hard of hearing, but said there's always room for improvement.

While the program is still in it's beginning stages it's created a line of communication between the groups.

 

 

They plan on distributing communication cards adopted from a program in Michigan, for both officers and the deaf community.

"It explains the specific violations or the reason why they were pulled over," said Bladel.

It also shows pictures that the deaf can point to on how they prefer to communicate. The cards is for traffic stops and other police related incidents.

President of the Iowa State Association for the Deaf, Shirley Hampton says the next step is to possibly give basic signing classes to police.

"Our state organization has 5 goals to work on over the next two years says and one of those goals is to improve communication with law enforcement, fire department and emergency responders," said Hampton.

Hampton says depending on how the program goes they hope to expand it statewide.