Henderson settles complaint involving police and dealings with the deaf

The city of Henderson and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement Monday after receiving complaints about the Police Department’s dealings with the deaf.

According to officials, the complaints, filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleged that the Henderson Police Department was not providing sufficient access to sign language interpreters or other aids when dealing with the deaf or hard of hearing.

“People who are deaf or hard of hearing must be able to communicate clearly with law enforcement, whether they are crime victims, witnesses, arrestees, detainees or just members of the public,” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.

When asked if they would be willing to resolve the complaints voluntarily, the city of Henderson readily agreed.

Among the new models for dealing with the deaf and hard of hearing, officers will now use a pictogram to ask a person if they would like an interpreter. If requested, one will be provided within one hour “under most circumstances,” officials said.

The city agreed to pay $35,000 to the complainants.

“What’s more important, prospectively things will improve and the problems that existed in the past will be rectified,” said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

In addition to the settlement payments, the city agreed to provide better interpreter availability, training for officers, staff members, and volunteers on the ADA and plan to adopt other policies consistent with the ADA, officials said.

“This agreement provides an effective model for Nevada’s — and the nation’s — law enforcement communities to work with deaf and hard of hearing citizens. The people of Henderson should be proud of their city’s leadership,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Daniel G. Bogden. “The commitments made by Henderson are simple and cost-effective; the city will be better able to protect public safety while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.

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