Department of Justice Seal


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 1998 (202) 616-2777

TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Oakland Police Department will ensure that citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate effectively with police officers during traffic stops, arrests, or criminal interrogations, under an agreement reached with the Justice Department.

The agreement, which was reached out of court yesterday, resolves three complaints filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It sets out the steps that the Oakland, California Police Department will take to ensure effective communication with the public.

"All Americans should have confidence in their ability to communicate with the police officers in their communities," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "Written policies and training are key to ensuring that police officers provide equal service to people with disabilities."

The Justice Department has reached similar agreements with police departments in other cities, including Rochester, New York; Roswell, New Mexico; Glendale, Arizona; and, Montgomery County, Maryland.

Under the agreement, the Police Department will:

adopt policies for providing effective communication and publish them as official operating procedures;

distribute and provide instruction on these policies and guidelines to all officers in meetings within the next two months;

train jail personnel on how to operate telecommuni-cations devices for the deaf (TDDs) and initiate a testing program to ensure the TDDs are functioning properly;

publicize the policies and procedures;

purchase at least one more TDD, and ensure that one of the televisions provided is equipped with closed captioning; and,

train all officers about effective communication skills by April 30, 1999.

The agreement stems from three complaints documenting three separate incidents between 1994 and 1997. In those incidents, the Police Department allegedly failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to arrestees with hearing impairments.

In one case, an individual alleged he was denied pencil and paper and was unable to communicate with jail staff. In another, an individual was unable to make a telephone call to clear up the charges against him because no operable TDD was available.

"We appreciate the Oakland Police Department's cooperative efforts in resolving these complaints," added Mr. Lee.

Title II of the ADA covers state and local government entities, including law enforcement agencies. The law requires covered entities to provide auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, written materials, and note pads, in order to ensure that communication with members of the public who have hearing impairments is effective.

Individuals or law enforcement agencies who wish to learn more about the ADA are encouraged to contact the Justice Department's ADA technical assistance hotline at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD) or to access the ADA Internet home page at http://www.usdoj/crt/ada/adahom.1.htm..

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