Tips for Persons When Communicating With the Police

No matter whether the police stop you on the highway, in the city, or even by an officer in a store, there are certain rules you should follow.

Remain Calm - The most important tip. While being upset or nervous is normal, trying to remain calm is important because you are more likely to think and respond better. When a deaf person is visibly upset and also trying to communicate through sign language, the police may misinterpret these actions as resisting or fighting.

Keep your Hands on the Wheel - If the police stop your car, stay in the car and keep your hands in clear view, preferable on the steering wheel. Stop what you are doing and give the police your full attention. Try to understand the officer asking the questions. If you are with someone, do not talk until you have learned why the police have stopped you. If you can talk, tell the officer that you are deaf or hard-of-hearing and would appreciate it if the officer would write down what he or she is saying. Never reach for a paper and pen in your pocket or the glove compartment until you have indicated to the officer that you are deaf or hard-of-hearing and you like to write down what you wish to say. If you are in disagreement, do not argue or become violent with the officer, you will have your chance later in court to discuss the matter in front of the judge.

Let the Officer Know That You are Deaf If you do not have understandable speech, point to your ear and shake your head no or as previously stated, make indications that you wish to write something down. The officer may give you instructions, for instance, he may tell you to get out of your car or to walk a straight line if he thinks you are intoxicated. If you do not understand the officer, make gestures again to indicate you do not understand what the officer is saying; never pretend that you understand the officer. Continue making your gestures until the officer understands that you cannot hear what he or she is saying and they need to try alternate communications methods.

Know Your Rights In all situations, be cooperative and answer basic questions the officer may ask you such as your name, address, phone number, etc. You may choose not to say anything that is incriminating to the officer until you have legal representation; however, you may also choose to help the officer by cooperating and resolving the situation faster. If you are the victim of a violent crime or are being questioned after they have taken you into custody, and you are not comfortable with the communications methods chosen, demand an interpreter.

Although an officer may not look friendly to you, or if the officer handles you in a way that you feel is rude and improper, you do not have the right to become combative. Again, most important, remain calm; your actions will prevent a confrontational situation. Keep in mind that Effective Communication is the best safeguard against dangerous situations occurring between police and deaf people.

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