U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section P.O.

Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738 JUN 14 1996

Sheriff Ben Whiteman, Jr. Parker County Sheriff's Department 129 Hogle Street Weatherford, Texas 76086 Re: DOJ Complaint # Dear Sheriff Whiteman: This letter constitutes our Letter of Findings with respect to the allegations received by this office concerning a violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) by the Parker County Sheriff's Department (Sheriff's Department). Title II prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the programs, services and activities of State and local governments on the basis of disability. The complainant has alleged that the policy and practices of the Sheriff's Department fail to provide effective communication for individuals who have hearing disabilities, as required by 28 C.F.R. 35.160. Specifically, it has been alleged that the complainant, Mr. was not made aware of his Miranda rights prior to post-arrest interrogation, because those rights were read aloud to him even though Mr. driver's license indicates that he has a hearing disability. Mr. has also alleged that he was not able to make a telephone call after his arrest because no accommodation for his hearing disability was made and that he entered into a debt obligation with a bondsman without an interpreter being present. The Civil Rights Division has completed its investigation of this complaint. We have reviewed the material submitted by both

the Sheriff's Department and the complainant. Our investigation focused on the question of whether the Sheriff's Department discriminated against Mr. by failing to take the necessary steps to ensure that communications with the complainant were as effective as communications with others. In determining whether effective communication has been provided, one must consider factors such as the complexity of the communication, the length 01-00409 2 of the communication, the context in which the communication took place, and the importance of the communication. At approximately on , the complainant was arrested by the Sheriff's Department for possession of marijuana under two (2) ounces. The complainant was taken to the Parker County Jail where he was processed and held. The complainant refused his telephone call at booking, but did make a call at 7:18 am that morning. During his stay at the jail, Mr. made several other telephone calls, some of which were made with a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) provided by the Parker County Sheriff's Department. Mr. signed a written request for an attorney or a bondsman for the purpose of posting bond at on . Records submitted by the Sheriff's Department indicate that Mr. was released from the Parker County Jail on bond, not because of a direct request from the Sheriff's Department to a bondsman, but by action of his own attorney. The nature of communications that took place between Mr. and the Sheriff's Department were short in duration, limited in complexity (one-on-one), and simple in context (background and identification information). Most communications involved the reading and signing of background forms, releases, requests and authorizations. Because the Sheriff's Department did not interrogate Mr. following his arrest, there was no obligation to deliver the Miranda rights to him. However, while Mr. was being held in the Parker County Jail, he was served with an arrest warrant on another charge by the Weatherford, Texas Police Department. Information submitted by the Sheriff's Department indicates that sign language interpreter services were available upon request in order to ensure effective communication for persons

with hearing disabilities. The Sheriff's Department had a contract with the Goodrich Center for the Deaf for the provision sign language interpreter services for the 1994 calendar year. Additionally, a policy that sets forth the availability of these interpreter services, and when such services should be provided, had been circulated to all personnel of the Sheriff's Department prior to the events of August 8, 1994. Based on the information given above, we find that the Sheriff's Department did not violate the ADA with respect to the allegations of Mr. complaint. As a result of our determination, we have closed our investigation of this complaint. If the complainant is dissatisfied with these findings, he may file a private suit in the appropriate United States District Court under title II. Our findings are limited to the allegations raised in the complaint and do not address other potential claims of discrimination on the basis of 01-00410 3 disability that may arise from the activities of the Sheriff's Department. Enclosed for your information are copies of recent settlements the Department has reached with other sheriff and police departments relating to the issues of auxiliary aids and services. These may be of use to you in reviewing your polices and procedures to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are fully met by your Department. We appreciate the cooperation of the Sheriff's Department during the course of this investigation. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Bill Shiraki at (202) 305-1118.


Bruce Friedman Supervisory Attorney Disability Rights Section

Civil Rights Division Enclosures CC: Mr. c/o ,with enclosures