Training and the Deaf:
examination of the current status of peace officer training
in the area of Deaf culture and police/deaf contacts. Part
1 of an evaluation and recommendation. Part two
covers specific recommendations
for changes to the current program.
November 17, 2007
Peace Officer Training and the Deaf Community
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and
Training (POST; herein referred to as the Commission) is
tasked with a number of different responsibilities related
to, inter alia, peace officer selection, training,
development of minimum standards for hiring, and training.
In addition, the Commission is statutorily mandated to
conduct research concerning job-related educational
standards for law enforcement officers in California.
One of the tasks that falls under the direction of the
Commission is the development of minimum standards
(including training standards) for the 39 approved basic
police academies in California. The Commission has
established a minimum of 664 hours of training in the
Regular Basic Course (the "police academy" for most
classifications of full time peace officers). These hours
are allocated to 41 individual topics. Each individual
topic is referred to as a "Learning Domain." Each Learning
Domain is identified by a sequential number.
For example, Learning Domain 3 is "Policing in the
Community." Learning Domain 6 is "Property Crimes."
Learning Domain 16 covers "Search and Seizure. Each
Learning Domain has set Training Specifications which
identify the Learning Need, Learning Objectives, and
Learning Domain 37 covers "Persons with Disabilities." The
Basic Course Workbook Series for Learning Domain 37 is
broken down into the following chapters:
Chapter 1 -- Disability Laws
Chapter 2 -- Developmental Disabilities
Chapter 3 -- Physical Disabilities
Chapter 4 -- Mental Illness
"Deafness and Hearing Impairments" is found within Chapter 3
of Learning Domain 37.
The purpose behind the Learning Need for Chapter 3 (Physical
Disabilities) is: "In order to make appropriate decisions
and serve those with physical disabilities, peace officers
must be able to recognize indicators of people affected by
The Learning Objectives for Chapter 3 -- Physical
Disabilities, and in particular, to "Deafness and Hearing
Recognize appropriate peace officer actions during field
contacts with people who are … deaf of hearing
"Identify methods an officer can use to communicate with
a person who is deaf or hearing impaired."
Discuss additional laws that protect the rights of
people with physical disabilities …."
"Recognize behavioral or other indicators that may lead
an officer to identify a person as being … deaf or
The Commission requires these objectives be met for both the
Regular Basic Course and the Specialized Investigators Basic
The objectives are covered in the Workbook. The
Introduction is the first experience a new officer in the
academy comes into contact with:
Introduction The term deafness means a
substantial or complete loss of hearing. Deafness and
hearing impairments affect all levels of society regardless
of age, race, education level, or occupation. The ability to
rapidly identify and properly treat people who are deaf or
hearing impaired will enhance officers' abilities to
accomplish their duties in a professional manner.
People who are deaf or hearing impaired often are concerned
or even fearful about contacts with peace officers. They may
be concerned that they will be misunderstood by officers and
• arrested or shot for not responding to an officer's
• mistaken for being under the influence of alcohol or
• perceived as uncooperative or disrespectful.
• appear to be anxious or confused because of an inability
As the new officer flips through the pages of the LD 37
workbook, he/she encounters the following information, most
of which is a single paragraph.
Field contact issues such as identifying the person as
deaf or hearing impaired, the importance of the first
Communication such as trying to speak
Communication methods, and the emphasis on an officers'
first task being the recognition that the person is deaf
or hearing impaired.
Written communication such as writing.
California Relay Service
Additional communication recommendations such as how to
get the persons attention, maintaining eye contact, use
of nonverbal methods, use of clear and concise words,
using standard hand signals.
Indicators such as the use of signing, pointing to an
ear and shaking head, reaching for a pad and pencil,
In summary, the Basic Course Workbook Series makes a cursory
attempt to teach a bit about deaf culture and interaction,
however it is lacking much in trying to improve
communications. Conversely, one must balance the need to
teach varied communication skills versus the transient and
perishable nature of such education. In other words, unless
the skill is used, it will be lost.
The Commission certifies post-academy ("in-service," or
"Advanced Officer Training) instruction. There are
currently two 3-day courses in "Sign Language for Emergency
Personnel. One is hosted by the San Bernardino County
Sheriff's Department, and the Southwest Regional
Occupational Program in Cerritos. Information about the
BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
P. O. BOX 1456
SAN BERNARDINO 92402
SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERG. PERS.
DESIGNED TO PROVIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT
OFFICERS WITH THE BASIC SKILLS TO PERFORM AND
RECOGNIZE: BASIC AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE SIGNS,
FINGERSPELLING ALPHABET, A TTY DEVICE, CALIFORNIA
RELAY SERVICE, LIFE SIGNS, AND BASIC AWARENESS OF
THE DEAF CULTURE. COURSE ALSO COVERS ASPECTS OF
FIELD PATROL CONTACT WITH DEAF PERSONS AND ARREST
CONSIDERATIONS. POST NON-REIMBURSABLE FEE: $60.00
FOR NON S.B.S.D. STUDENTS.
Total Authorized: 6
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL OCCUPATIONAL PROGRAM
20122 CABRILLO LANE
SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERG. PERS.
PROVIDES BASIC COMMUNICATION SKILLS
FOR INTERACTION IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS WITH DEAF
PERSONS USING BASIC AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE AND
MANUAL ALPHABET. STUDENT WILL ALSO IDENTIFY AND USE
THE CALIFORNIA RELAY SERVICE AS A RECOURSE FOR
TALKING TO A DEAF PER SON ON THE TELEPHONE AND LEARN
TO OPERATE A TTY OR TDD DEVICE. STUDENT WILL BE
REQUIRED TO PURCHASE A WORKBOOK AT COST NOT TO
EXCEED $20, NON-REIMBURSABLE.
Other education opportunities are typically self-taught.
Examples of other education opportunities include college
courses, on-line courses (e.g. Lifeprint); books and
computer programs, and other multimedia.
Provided an individual officer desires to seek additional
training on his/her own, the only training he/she will
receive is a few hours in the basic police academy.
There are a number of ways a law enforcement organization
can increase the knowledge and experience of its personal.
This will be explored in depth in the ASL 2 paper.
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