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Wallingford police to provide training, equipment to settle ADA case

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WALLINGFORD – The police department will provide training and equipment to more effectively communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing residents under a settlement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The agreement was reached after a complaint was filed that the department violated someone’s rights under the American’s with Disabilities Act.

In 2012 and 2013 the department was investigating an alleged crime, which included a pre-arranged interview of a deaf person. The deaf person was under the custody of the state’s Department of Developmental Services, and showed up to the interview with a DDS employee and a friend, both of whom had previously interpreted for the deaf person.

The officer was willing to allow the deaf person’s friend to interpret, but the DDS employee said no. The officer ended the interview when it seemed like the deaf person was having trouble understanding the conversation.

The investigation was closed and no arrest was ever made.

Because the deaf person’s friend couldn’t interpret for him, and a certified interpreter was not offered, the individual filed a complaint against DDS and the Wallingford Police Department; that complaint was forwarded up to the Department of Justice, which began an investigation. The DOJ continues to investigate DDS, but a resolution was reached with Wallingford Police.

The agreement requires the department to:

  • Adopt a policy that ensures staff is trained on the legal requirements and procedures of effectively communicate with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by providing sign language interpreters
  • Posting notices in public areas
  • Report to the DOJ for two years about training staff and any interactions with those who are hard of hearing, as well as reporting any grievances filed under the ADA.
  • Designate an ADA coordinator for the department to ensure all requirements are met

The town voluntarily entered into the agreement. Here is a statement from Chief of Police William J. Wright:

The Wallingford Police Department is a state of Connecticut accredited law enforcement agency in which we pride ourselves in following nationally recognized best practices for law enforcement.  My agency and I see this interaction with the Department of Justice as an opportunity to review and improve our already existing exceptional service delivery.  The Department of Justice’s review of our policies and procedures reinsures our community that the Wallingford Police Department is committed to upholding individuals rights while providing excellence in police service.