Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Adopts New Plan to Effectively Communicate with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

A parked police car flashes emergency lights in the dark.
After an investigation from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office adopted new policies to address ADA compliance. / Photo credit Pixabay via Pexels.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced yesterday that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office “agreed to adopt a set of policies to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. The agreement notes that changes in policy are the result of “an investigation into complaints by two individuals who are deaf, who each claimed that JCSO deputies had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing them with aids and services they needed to effectively communicate in connection with their arrests and bookings.” 

The release noted the ADA requires all public entities and agencies “to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.” Use of video communication software or “qualified in-person interpreters” can be used to ensure compliance with the ADA according to the release.  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated the two complaints in addition to other interactions the JCSO had with other individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported that some JCSO policies weren’t always followed and said that other policies needed improvement. 

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The JCSO agreed to adopt new policies to address any shortcomings identified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. New elements of the ADA policy include assessing whether deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals need auxiliary aids and services and providing them; notifying dispatch and booking staff in advance of bringing deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals to the jail; ensuring deaf and hard-of-hearing detainees can access technology that allows them to communicate with attorneys and others; and providing JCSO patrol, booking and jail employees with job-specific training on operations specific to deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. 

“When law enforcement interacts with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, effective communication requires the use of appropriate aids and services,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch in the press release. “We are pleased that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to take steps not only to improve their policies on interacting with individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, but also to ensure that JCSO employees know how to put those policies into action. The measures announced today will help both law enforcement officers and individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing by ensuring effective communication.”  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeyen Wu.

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