DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLAINT NUMBER 204-86-49
This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Ð 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice against the Wisconsin State Patrol (State Patrol). The complaint was received by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, under the authority of 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F.
The complainant, who is deaf, alleged that he was stopped by two State Patrol officers, on July 13, 1995, after screeching his automobile tires going into a gas station in the Wisconsin Dells area. The complainant alleges that the officers improperly handled the stop in several ways, including that the officers initially refused several requests to provide him with a pen and paper when they were trying to communicate with him, that they pulled him from his vehicle into their patrol car without providing him with an explanation or reading him his Miranda rights, that they blocked the path between him and his traveling companion, who is deaf, when he was trying to communicate with her through sign language, and that they threatened to handcuff him if he continued attempting to sign. After more than 45 minutes, the complainant alleges that the police officers allowed him to leave without issuing a citation or taking any other disciplinary action.
The Department of Justice is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to investigate fully the allegations of the complaint in this matter to determine whether the State Patrol complied with title II of the ADA and the Justice Department's implementing regulation; issue findings; and, where appropriate, negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized under 42 U.S.C. 12133, to bring civil action enforcing title II of the ADA should the Department of Justice fail to secure voluntary compliance
pursuant to Subpart F. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement as set forth below, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation or from filing civil suit in this matter.
The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the State Patrol. The parties agree that this Agreement is not an admission of violation and should not be construed as an admission by the State Patrol of any violation.
In the interests of securing compliance by voluntary means, the parties hereby agree as follows:
- The ADA applies to the State Patrol, which is a public entity as defined in the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II. 28 C.F.R. 35.104.
- The subject of this Settlement Agreement is a State Patrol written policy, a copy of which is attached, that requires that in those situations where the provision of interpreting services is necessary to ensure effective communication, the State Patrol will, in most cases, secure qualified interpreting services. Copies of this policy will also appear in the State Patrol's official operations manual beginning with the next edition printed following the date of this Settlement Agreement.
- In order to ensure effective communication with members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing in State Patrol programs, activities, and services, the State Patrol agrees:
- To provide, at State Patrol expense, appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, when necessary to afford a qualified individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by the State Patrol.
- To give primary consideration to the requests of the individuals with disabilities, in determining what type of auxiliary aid or service is necessary.
- To notify individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing about the provision of auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication. The State Patrol will distribute this information through pamphlets, posters or other appropriate means.
- In order to inform members of the public regarding the provisions of title II and their applicability to State Patrol programs, services and activities, the State Patrol will publish, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the following notice on two separate occasions in the Wisconsin State Journal and in newspapers of general circulation serving the Milwaukee and Madison areas.
In accordance with the requirements of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Wisconsin State Patrol will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in State Patrol services, programs, or activities. The State Patrol will provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, whenever necessary to ensure effective communication with members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing. If you have any questions regarding this notice or would like to request a copy of the guidelines for providing effective communication to persons with hearing impairments in various police situations, please contact ____________ at ______________.
- The State Patrol will provide a copy of the notice identified in paragraph 4 to any person upon request.
- The State Patrol will make available henceforth, if not already provided, at least one Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) at each of its facilities around the State where persons are taken after they have been arrested. The TDDs will be made available to arrestees with hearing impairments under the same terms and conditions as telephone privileges are offered to all arrestees who do not have hearing impairments. Appropriate signage will be placed adjacent to all public telephones in each patrol station indicating the availability of, and process for using, the TDDs. The State Patrol agrees to keep such signage in place at all times.
- All State Patrol personnel will receive training by qualified trainers in the following areas:
* effective communication skills and courteous treatment of persons with hearing impairments;
* the policy adopted pursuant to paragraph 2 of this Agreement.
* the policy adopted pursuant to paragraph 6 regarding the availability of TDDs for persons with hearing impairments and instruction on how to use TDDs;
The timelines for the training will be as follows:
* all new recruits will receive training within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement;
* all management personnel will receive training within 120 days of the effective date of this Agreement;
* the remainder of State Patrol personnel will have completed training by March 31, 1998.
- Within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, a copy of the policy adopted pursuant to paragraph 2 will be distributed to all State Patrol personnel.
- The State Patrol will submit a report to the Department of Justice detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provisions by December 31, 1997, and a second report by April 15, 1998. These reports will include copies of notices published in the newspapers.
- This document is a public agreement. A copy of this document or any information contained in it may be made available to any person. The State Patrol will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person on request.
- The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department of Justice believes that this Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement in an appropriate federal court.
- Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
- The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, will be enforceable under its provisions. This Agreement is limited to the facts set forth in the first paragraph, and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal law. This Agreement does not affect the continuing responsibility of the State Patrol to comply with all aspects of title II of the ADA.
For the Wisconsin State Patrol:
Administrator of the
Division of State Patrol
For the United States:
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
RENEE M. WOHLENHAUS,
Acting Deputy Chief
ROBB WOLFSON, Investigator
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738
Successful police contact with citizens is characterized by effective communication between the parties whether it is a suspect, victim, or complainant with whom the officer is talking. As such, police officers encountering an individual with hearing impairment should use appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to ensure effective communication with the individual.
Auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters, written materials, note pads, and other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments.
When an auxiliary aid or service is required to ensure effective communication, the Wisconsin State Patrol must provide an opportunity for individuals with hearing impairments to request the auxiliary aids and services of their choice and must give primary consideration to the choice expressed by the individuals. "Primary consideration" means that the Wisconsin State Patrol must honor the choice, unless it can show that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.
Police contact with citizens occurs most frequently during routine traffic stops. In situations involving drivers who are deaf and use sign language for communication, the officer should use appropriate sign language to initiate the exchange with the driver and should explain in writing the necessity for a stop and citation if the driver is to be charged with a traffic violation. The officer may not ask a family member or friend of the driver to interpret.
These guidelines address only those situations where a police officer, after consulting with the individual with a hearing impairment, determines that the services of a qualified interpreter are necessary to ensure effective communication.
A. Arrest Upon Probable Cause Without An Interview
In circumstances where an individual without a hearing impairment would have been arrested on probable cause without an interview, then a suspect with a hearing impairment in the same situation usually does not need to be provided with a qualified interpreter.
However, a qualified interpreter may be required if an officer is unable to convey to the arrestee the nature of the criminal charges by communicating on a note pad or by using another means of communication. The arrestee should be transported to a holding cell at the appropriate state police station where either the arresting officer or the transporting officer can convey the information through the interpreter when he or she arrives.
B. Interview Needed to Arrest Individual With A Hearing Impairment
- If a police officer needs to interview a suspect with a hearing impairment to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest, a qualified interpreter must be provided if the written communication is ineffective. When the services of a qualified interpreter are required to provide effective communication, but the officer cannot wait until a qualified interpreter arrives because the officer has to respond to another more urgent call, the following procedures apply:
- If the investigation does not involve a serious offense, the officer must postpone the interview and possible arrest until the officer can return to the scene when a qualified interpreter is present. If this is not possible, the officer must document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the appropriate report.
- If the investigation involves a serious offense, the officer, before leaving the scene, must contact the appropriate Investigations Division supervisor and advise the supervisor of the case. The supervisor will determine if a detective will be called in to wait for a qualified interpreter. If not, the officer must document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the appropriate report.
C. Interrogating An Arrestee With A Hearing Impairment
If an officer cannot effectively inform the arrestee of the Miranda warnings without the use of an interpreter, then the officer must secure the services of a qualified interpreter in order to communicate accurately the warnings to the arrestee prior to any interrogation.
An officer seeking to interrogate an arrestee with a hearing impairment must obtain the services of a qualified interpreter prior to any interrogation whenever an interpreter is needed for effective communication. If exigent circumstances do not permit a delay in the interrogation of the arrestee, if an interpreter cannot be located within a reasonable period of time (which should occur very infrequently), if written communication between the officer and the arrestee was effective in conveying an understanding of the Miranda warnings, or if the arrestee specifically declines the opportunity to communicate through an interpreter, the officer may proceed with the interrogation by using a note pad. However, if written communication becomes ineffective, for example, because the factual pattern is complex, because the arrestee is having difficulty communicating without an interpreter, or because the arrestee chooses to discontinue the interrogation, the officer must discontinue the interrogation and wait until a qualified interpreter is present before continuing the interrogation. In most instances a qualified interpreter will be available and the interrogation will not be delayed.
D. Issuance of Appearance Ticket
In circumstances in which an individual without a hearing impairment would be issued an appearance ticket without being questioned by the investigating officer, then a suspect with a hearing impairment in the same situation does not need to be provided with a qualified interpreter. If an officer has stopped a suspect for committing a non-criminal infraction and if the officer is unable to convey to the violator the nature of the non-criminal infraction by communicating on a note pad or by using another means of communication, then the officer should use his or her discretion as to whether to call a qualified interpreter to the scene or whether to issue a warning rather than a citation.
E. Interviewing A Victim or Critical Witness With A Hearing Impairment
- If an officer is able to communicate effectively by writing questions on a note pad and having the victim or witness with a hearing impairment write his or her responses, then the officer may proceed with the interview using a note pad. However, if an investigating officer is unable to communicate effectively with a victim or critical witness by using a note pad or some other means of communication other than a qualified interpreter, then the investigating officer must provide the victim or critical witness with a qualified interpreter. If the investigating officer cannot wait until a qualified interpreter arrives because the officer has to respond to another more urgent call, the following procedures apply:
- 1) If the investigation does not involve a serious offense, then (a) the officer can have a qualified interpreter dispatched to the victim's or critical witness's location and request the dispatcher re-contact the officer when the interpreter arrives. If a qualified interpreter is unable to respond or if the officer cannot return to the scene, the officer must document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the appropriate report; or (b) the officer can ask the victim or critical witness to come voluntarily to the section office when a qualified interpreter is available. At that time, the investigating officer can return to the station to complete the investigation. If a qualified interpreter is unable to respond or if the officer cannot return to the station, the officer must document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the appropriate report.
2) If the investigation does involve a serious offense and if the victim or witness with a hearing impairment is critical to establishing probable cause for an arrest or for completing the investigation, then the investigating officer, before leaving the scene, must contact his or her supervisor and advise the supervisor of the case. The supervisor will determine if an investigator will be called in to wait for a qualified interpreter. If the supervisor determines that an investigator will not be responding; and if neither option (1)(a) nor (1)(b) above is available, then the officer may leave the victim(s) or witness(es) at the scene. The investigating officer must then document his or her investigation as completing as possible and file the report.
F. Obtaining Qualified Interpreters
- Officers will arrange for a qualified interpreter by contacting _____________________ and requesting that a qualified interpreter be provided. If the person makes a request for a particular interpreter, the request should be honored if the interpreter is available and qualified.
- All identifying information on the interpreter must be included in the report, including the interpreter's name, the time the interpreter was called, and his/her time of arrival and departure. All written questions and responses between and among police officers and persons with hearing impairments must be treated as evidence and handled accordingly.