SALT LAKE CITY — The fatal shooting of a deaf man by an Oklahoma City police officer is raising concerns about law enforcement training in Utah. Members of the state’s deaf community say more training is needed because police officers often do not know how to communicate with hearing impaired suspects and witnesses.
On September 19, Oklahoma City police officers were investigating a hit and run accident when they confronted a man on his front porch with a metal pipe. Despite screams from neighbors that the man was deaf, one police officer pulled out a taser and another officer pulled out a gun, then shot and killed 35-year-old Madgiel Sanchez.
“Many police officers are not trained with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing,”said Jared Allebest, a hearing impaired attorney who represents deaf clients. “Because of the lack of communications, bad things happen.”
Allebest would like to meet with all Utah law enforcement agencies to set up training and create a dialogue with the deaf community.
“If there’s a working relationship with the deaf community, then police officers will begin to understand how deaf people communicate, how they behave and how they interact," Allebest said.
For example, if a police officer shines a light in a deaf person’s face then the person cannot read the officer’s lips or understand any commands.
Lt. Brian Lohrke of the Unified Police Department says his agency works with people with many languages and abilities. He says training would be helpful so they can better serve the hearing impaired.
“We try to accommodate as best we can, but it would be good to have more tools to work with the deaf population,” said Lohrke.