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August 2, 2004

Breaking the silence - improved service for deaf people  (Forcewide)

From: Avon and Somerset Constabulary, UK - Aug 2, 2004

Added - 02 August 2004 14:44:54

Improving communications with the deaf and hard of hearing forms the backbone to a new project being unveiled by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

The PLOD (Police Link Officers for Deaf People) scheme aims to promote equal access to the police for those who are deaf, deaf/blind and hard of hearing.

In the latest development a force-wide team of officers has been established to forge links with the deaf and hard of hearing and to act as local contact points.

From an initial appeal for those interested in communicating with those with hearing difficulties and having experience of sign language a team of nine has been established.

They will receive deaf awareness and sign language training and have started attending deaf clubs and forums to build up a greater knowledge and awareness of the subject.

Each of the nine police link officers have been provided with Nokia communication phones which incorporate fax/text facilities and have been adapted with a special software package, developed with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. This enables the phone to "talk" with services specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing such as the Minicom system.

The force has provided funding for sign language training for the link officers with BSL tutor John Mancini. Further police-related targeted training is planned for the coming months.

The Deaf Studies Trust at the University of Bristol has also joined forces to provide video training.

The force, working with the trust, has already unveiled the first use of videophones to allow deaf people to directly contact the emergency services.

Ch Insp Andy Pullan said: "The message we are looking to get across to those who have hearing difficulties is that we now have a system in place to help them communicate with the police more effectively.

"The new developments will feature on a link from the police web site, which will also feature a map showing the nine officers serving the six policing districts with their respective contact details. A special poster featuring the information will also be displayed prominently throughout the force area."

The new service will not be an emergency link but will enable those with hearing difficulties to find out information and perhaps clarify events and situations or procedures in which they have been involved with the police and where communication was a problem. It will also help to promote and reinforce crime prevention messages.

"The whole concept of the police communicating with those with hearing difficulties is still very much in its infancy. Hampshire police have been pioneering the work and we, together with other forces, have thrown our support fully behind this important area of communications development," said CI Pullan.

CI Pullan and BSL trainer John Mancini together with the nine link officers will be at Police Headquarters, Portished on Wednesday, August 4, 2004 at 11.30am.

Media are welcome to attend.

© 2004 Avon and Somerset Constabulary