Police Progress Slowly to Assist Deaf

Article excerpt

The Metropolitan Police Department has begun to resolve its communication problems with the deaf but has yet to fulfill the requirements of a legal settlement.

"I think we're probably at a good 50 [percent], if not more, in terms of meeting the agreement, in terms of compliance," said Nola Joyce, a senior police official who is leading much of the effort.

The department has missed almost all of its deadlines to implement the requirements, which now are being carried out, officials said. They include:

* Installing TTY machines - devices that let deaf persons make and receive telephone calls - in the seven police district stations.

* Announcing to officers at roll call procedures for dealing with deaf persons.

* Distributing to officers information cards that explain resources and rights that deaf persons have when dealing with the police.

* Employing a sign-language interpreting company that can provide certified interpreters within 90 minutes at all times.

A lack of coordination within the department led to the delay in complying with the terms of the settlement, said Steve Gaffigan, senior executive director for the Office of Quality Assurance.

"A couple of balls got dropped, but I think we picked them up very quickly, and we're moving forward now," he said.

The Washington Times first reported Feb. 22 that the Police Department had failed to implement major portions of a legal agreement that called for communication improvements with the deaf.

City and police officials on Nov. 22 signed the settlement with the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington and Vernon Shorter, a deaf man who was jailed in 1997 on a burglary charge that later was dropped.

Mr. Gaffigan said the department has installed TTY machines at the seven district stations. …