How to Close the Communication Gap Between the Police and the Deaf Community

BY IRISH HAINES

Domonic Gordine came to Temple University give the talk, ”Closing the Communication Gap between the Police and the Deaf Community”.  

With the help of an English interpreter, Domonic Gordine explained how he was born deaf to a hearing family and grew up in the Philadelphia Deaf Community, doing various activities until his early teens. Until he moved to Washington D.C. to attend MSSD (Model Secondary School for the Deaf).

Back in Philadelphia, he attended Montgomery County Community College to get an Associates Degree in Politics, as opposed to Counseling, because he “didn’t see too many Deaf people getting into politics” and is currently attending Rosemont College for his Bachelor’s.

Gordine discussed his personal experience when it came to police. In 2003, moments after learning his younger brother would be spending life in prison for murder, Gordine was thought to have lashed out while signing and had to be subdued by several officers. He was charged with two counts of simple assault and released after a night in a jail cell.

Gordine believed the situation could have been handled better had police understood and had proper training when it comes to the Deaf community. He continued to discuss that police brutality is on the rise in the Deaf community, citing the case of Magdiel Sanchez who was shot and killed by police officers. Sanchez had done nothing wrong but was “advancing toward [police] with a metal pipe”, which he used as a communication tool which the police would have known had they listened to even one witness around them yelling about the man’s disability.

Gordine was adamant that the direct cause of this brutality between police and the Deaf community is due to the lack of training and understanding about Deaf culture and communication with police departments.

Alim Zhakanov, a Junior at Temple, agrees with this sentiment and believes more can be done.

“I think in the neighborhoods where there are deaf, and disabled people in general there should be police departments that are trained better,” Zhakanov said. “There should be special training for them to successfully [interact] with disabled people.”

When police officers do not realize Deaf and hard hearing people cannot hear them, it can often result in police officers brutally assaulting them or worse. Both Gordine and the ACLU are calling on the Department of Justice to provide training for police departments on how to interact with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, as obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jay Neemyer, a sophomore, believes this sense of misunderstanding starts at police departments and is what needs to be fixed.

“I think that police departments need to realize that not everyone that they will be dealing with on a day to day basis is able-bodied,” Neemeyer said. “[They’re] dealing with deafness in this case or other disabilities which means that not everyone will be able to deal with safety or even understand an officer’s instructions.”

As for now, the ACLU has provided a page help citizens know their rights, especially Deaf rights, to understand what to do when dealing with the police.