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ROCHESTER POLICE FORMALIZE SIGN-LANGUAGE INTERPRETER POLICY Settlement is the First of its Kind in the State of New York WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an effort to improve communication between deaf citizens and police, a city in New York will issue a written policy concerning the use of sign language interpreters by its local police department, the Justice Department announced today. A Rochester, New York woman filed a complaint with the Justice Department concerning an incident that took place in July 1992. The complaint alleged that the woman, who is deaf, went to the Rochester Police Department to report an assault. She claimed that she was unable to tell police about the incident without the services of a sign language interpreter, which the police department did not provide. Today's agreement between Rochester and the Justice Department resolves the complaint under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Justice Department has reached similar settlements with police departments in Clearwater, Florida; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Bell Gardens, California. Under the settlements the Justice Department may seek a court remedy if any of the departments fail to comply with the agreement. "Police departments and community members need to work together to combat crime, and communication is a critical element in achieving that goal," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "We are pleased that Rochester has formalized a policy to ensure that all of its citizens will be able to effectively communicate with the police." Under today's settlement, the Rochester Police Department has agreed to: ​ issue a written directive to law enforcement personnel describing the policy on sign language interpreters; ​ ​ provide training for personnel on the appropriate use of sign-language interpreter services; ensure that sign-language interpreters are provided as needed during arrests, investigations, or during an interrogation; ​ ​ ensure that sign language interpreters employed by the city are sufficiently qualified; and publicize the new policy through pamphlets, posters, and other appropriate means. "The Rochester Police Department has welcomed the opportunity to work with the Department of Justice to develop a written policy which will assure effective communication with members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing," said

Chief Robert S. Warshaw of the Rochester Police Department. "Service to members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing has always been a very important concern to us." The Chief added that the department has provided and will continue to provide services that are available to all members of the community. The ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Title II of the law states that public entities, including police departments, must communicate effectively with members of the public who have hearing disabilities. State and local governments are required to provide appropriate services, such as sign language interpreters where necessary, unless the provision of such would result in "an undue burden." Whenever possible, the Justice Department attempts to negotiate with state and local governments to bring about voluntary compliance with the requirements of the ADA. "Our goal is to work with police organizations to achieve solutions," Patrick added. "We take into account good faith efforts to comply with the law, and Rochester's efforts serve as a model to other counties across the country." Copies of the written policy of the Rochester Police Department may be obtained by calling the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line. The hotline was established by the Attorney General as part of a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the ADA. The number is 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD). # # # 95-571