Police reach out to the deaf

In November 2022, police visited Burelson, Texas.

They were not hunting down a suspect, performing an arrest for truancy, or the usual anti-drug routine. Police officers were there for a different purpose, making it a far from ordinary visit.

That day, officers from the Burleson Police Department visited the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It was a positive visit, one about bridging the gaps in communication for those with hearing challenges. Students had the opportunity to visit the officers on their home turf at the Burleson Police Department and have an honest conversation about the challenges the deaf community faces.

“Many people look at police as crime enforcers, but the truth is that they spend quite a bit of time embracing their communities and doing good,” says Michael Letts, a former member of law enforcement himself.

That was not all to the visit, though. While there, officers also got to identify one of their own. Present was Corporal Erica Trevino of Texas, the second deaf officer in the U.S. and the first in the state.

“With Officer Trevino being here, that's going to be a tremendous asset for those who are hard of hearing or deaf,” said David Conner, Dalhart Police Chief. “She will be able to communicate and assist us in that realm as well.” 

The fact that police officers like Corporal Trevino serve only further demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to their communities. A study from Gallaudet estimates that 37 to 140 out of every 1,000 people have some sort of hearing difficulty, making it more prevalent than many realize.

Communication issues do happen, and they can be more frequent than ever necessary. Speech is a driving factor in communication when speaking to police and following directives. If you cannot hear, conversation is immediately stunted, and the whole experience becomes one-sided.

So, what to do?

Police departments like Burleson are starting to pay attention and incorporate special measures. There is the addition of special placards, including ones created by police officers themselves, like the ones seen in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville also offers a text-to-911 service that eliminates the need for verbal communication, allowing for fast, easy communication in an emergency. To help orient the community to this service, there is a virtual Deaf Cop Chat that can be followed for valuable tips.

Despite all these efforts, some people are critical. Can a police department really keep up? But police are already making the effort and improving the way they police our streets.

"It's to help better our department and have those resources within our city so that we can communicate and communicate properly with the deaf community," says Code Enforcement Officer Christina Brazell of Daphne, Alabama.

In today’s climate, where distrust can distort support, law enforcement is going above and beyond to meet the needs of their citizens and their communities. Police these days get a bad rap, accused of violence and viewed with mistrust, but then we see departments like Burleson and Jacksonville stepping up to the plate.

I dare the media to print that instead.

​​Lena Muhtadi Borrelli spent time in finance, marketing, and hospitality with a diverse professional background before settling into full-time life as a freelance writer. She has written for TIME, Forbes, Investopedia, MSN, Bankrate, ZDNET, and TV Guide.

Image: Bruce Tuten

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