Tuscaloosa police officers receive training to better communicate with hearing impaired

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Police officers in Tuscaloosa received training today to better communicate with the hearing impaired. More than a dozen local officers from different departments attended the workshop at the University of Alabama.

24 local police officers attended the training session. Officers say they hope this workshop will help them on the street if and when they come across someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Officers learned valuable information on how to better communicate with the hearing impaired. One skill they learned was how to sign, “Do you need an interpreter?”

Like many officers who attended the workshop, Tuscaloosa police sergeant Lachlan Chronister has encountered many citizens who are deaf.

“When I first started in law enforcement probably a month after I got out of the training car, I ran into a person on a traffic stop who was deaf.  And it stuck with me how little ability I had to communicate with that with that person,” Chronister said.

This training session is giving officers like him hands on experience so they can learn some basic sign language that can be used on the job.

“It’s going to be a great benefit, we learned about 12 different signs. It’s great to be able to show the guys these few things but obviously we need to do more than that, there’s a lot more training out there that we need to do to get across to our men,” Chronister acknowledged.

In addition to learning sign language, officers were shown videos on the right way to communicate with the deaf, something that is crucial for the officers and the hearing impaired

“The number one concern would be civil rights concerns, that someone’s not hurt and their rights are respected,” UA Professor Dr. Darrin Griffin said.

Chronister agrees, and said he feels better now that he has the basic tools to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired.

“This was like only a taste of what’s out there for what we need to be able to do.  But if I do come in contact with someone from the deaf community I know that I will now have the ability to at least find the answer or solution to start communicating with that person,” he explained.

None of the local police departments who attended have interpreters on staff.  But a few of the agencies including the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office are looking into possibilities for the future.

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