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December 26, 2002

Officer promotes understanding between police, hearing impaired

From: Odessa American, TX - 26 Dec 2002

By David J. Lee
Odessa American

A Houston police officer will talk to Odessa poice officers and hearing-impaired Odessans about howto deal with each other.
Houston officer Randy Melton will offer two classes, one for officers and the other for civilians.
“Typically law enforcement officers are trained to deal with hearing people,” Melton said. “As a result, confrontations and misunderstandings occur frequently when a deaf or hard-of-hearing person comes in contact with a police officer.”
Melton said he has taught officers and hearing impaired people how to work with each other for about 12 years. He was a liaison to the deaf and hard of hearing for the Houston Police Department for nearly 16 of his 30 years there.
“I try and make a difference with my fellow law enforcement officers,” Melton said in a phone interview from his home in Houston. “Officers are under a lot of pressure doing their jobs today and learning how to handle a deaf or hard-of-hearing person is important. I want to help keep my fellow law enforcement officers out of legal trouble. I also want to make sure that the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing are not violated. A little education to both groups goes a long way.”
Odessa Police Chief Chris Pipes said the class is part of the OPD’s effort to recognize the needs of all people in Odessa.
“This is one of the variety of ways we can reach out to all in our community,” Pipes said, adding that he wants police officers to be sensitive to all people in the Odessa community.
“There are 91,000 people in our community, and it is diverse in so many ways,” Pipes said. “We have people of all ages, two genders, many ethnicities and people with various handicaps. We want to be sensitive to the needs of all people in our community.”
Odessa Sgt. Charlie Burns said the class fills a need in the Odessa community.
“Statistics show us that 8.8 percent of our community is deaf or hard of hearing,” Burns said. “This is beneficial for our officers who may have to come in contact with those members of our deaf and hard of hearing community.”
Burns said Melton conducted three such classes here for officers in 2001. This year Melton plans to work with civilians as well.
Melton said he hopes the classes promote a better understanding between officers and the hearing impaired in the Odessa community.
“I put my experience of working with the deaf and hard of hearing into law enforcement language so officers will better understand the deaf and hard of hearing communities they serve,” Melton said. “With the deaf and hard of hearing, I simply advise them on what they should expect when confronted by a law enforcement officer.”
Melton said he is not a fix-all, but he hopes his seminars help.
“I don’t claim to solve all the problems between law enforcement and the deaf and hard of hearing,” Melton said. “But the more they know about each other, the less chance a confrontation will occur. Education is the key.”

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