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July 2, 2003

Police Train In Sign Language, Lip Reading

From: WOKR-TV, NY - Jul 2, 2003

Rochester, NY - (07/02/03) - For the first time the Rochester Police Department is sending new recruits through hard of hearing training. New officers must learn basic sign language and lip reading.

They closed their ears and opened their eyes to the world of non-verbal communication.

The police officers found out that spelling your own name in sign language is not easy. But they’re making the effort because many of them admit there’s a sense of intimidation about dealing with deaf people.

The Rochester area has an estimated 40,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Class Captain Dan Brochu knows about deadly incidents in the past. In 1997 police officers shot and killed a deaf man who was threatening them with knives.

"I have a big fear of having to deal with somebody that is deaf in a life-threatening situation," he said.

The class covers everything from sign language to making sure deaf people can always see your face. The officers were impressed.

"I think they did not expect what we were going to give them," said Instructor Tony Wallace, who is hard of hearing himself.

By the end of the day the officers could count to fifteen and said they're not afraid to communicate without (the sound of) words.

Instructors said that's a sign of the program's success.

Thirty-two officers participated in the class. Most of the police department has had some training in sign language, but now the hope is to have a lot more officers who can specialize with the hard of hearing.

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