Cops Install Phone Devices for Deaf in 12 Places

Article excerpt

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has installed TTY telephone devices - although more than two months late - that enable the deaf to communicate with hearing persons, thus fulfilling a major portion of a legal agreement, according to an announcement this week.

Police have installed the TTY machines in all seven district stations, two substations and three other locations, Chief Charles H. Ramsey said in a written statement issued Thursday.

"The installation of these TTY devices and the other measures we are taking are significant steps forward in our ability to serve the District's deaf and hard of hearing communities," Chief Ramsey's statement said.

Officials also plan to install the devices in other offices, including the chief's; the Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles internal investigations; all three Regional Operational Commands and the Central Cellblock.

"Some progress, apparently, has been made," said Linda Royster, executive director of the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington and a plaintiff in the lawsuit that was settled in November. Miss Royster said her organization and advocates of the deaf who sued police to force the changes plan to monitor compliance and test the department.

The Washington Times first reported in February that D.C. police had failed to execute or even begin several initiatives to better serve deaf persons and help them communicate with officers, despite the November settlement. In March, officials acknowledged "a couple of balls got dropped" and they were about "50 percent" in compliance.

The chief's announcement also pointed out the headway the police department has made in services for the deaf. The department:

cHas entered a contract with Birnbaum Interpreting Services Inc. of Silver Spring to provide interpreters when an officer questions deaf persons and they request one.

cHas begun training personnel in how to deal with deaf persons.

cPays an extra stipend to employees certified in American Sign Language.

cIs printing information cards that explain to deaf people their rights when dealing with police.

The department agreed to these measures when it settled a lawsuit filed by the Disability Rights Council and Vernon Shorter, a deaf man jailed in 1997 on a burglary charge that later was dropped.

Miss Royster questioned whether police had fulfilled every portion of the agreement and wondered why it took so long.

"I'm not sure why it takes from November to April to print cards, but who knows," Miss Royster said. …