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April 21, 2005

Two Deaf Locals File Million Dollar Lawsuit Against The City

From: KVBC, NV - Apr 21, 2005

They say they were arrested and handcuffed, the only problem, they couldn't understand a word police were saying. Now, two legally deaf citizens in North Las Vegas are filing a million dollar lawsuit claiming police in that city "didn't" do enough to help them communicate while they were in custody. News 3's Alex Savidge reports on this exclusive story, and why these two feel they were victims of discrimination.

They both say the North Las Vegas police officers who cuffed them didn't seem to care about finding a way to communicate with them to explain why they were being arrested. Now these two plaintiffs are now hoping this lawsuit will change the way police deal with the deaf.

"I indicated to him I'd need to write back and forth and he said verbally read my lips."

Speaking through an interpreter Jeffrey Beardsley says North Las Vegas police officers showed total disregard for his rights as a deaf person. He says during a simple traffic stop in 2003 the officer refused to write down on paper what he wanted Beardsley to do.

"He grabs the pad and throws it down and proceeds to pull me out of the car." Before long Beardsley says he was roughed up, cuffed and then felt completely helpless.

Now, Beardsley and this woman Melissa Ward have filed a million dollar federal lawsuit against the City of North Las Vegas and its police department. The suit claims the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing a reasonable way for these two deaf people to communicate with police officers and other city workers.

"We have rights and we have to have interpreters in these very serious situations."

Ward, deaf since birth, claims after an arrest a few years back the North Las Vegas courts didn't give her a qualified sign language interpreter. She says she had no way to tell her side of the story to a judge, now she hopes this suit will change things.

"The lawsuit is justice for the next deaf person who goes through the process."

In the suit the two plaintiffs are asking that North Las Vegas police officers and other city workers be required to go through sensitivity training so they know how to communicate with the deaf. They are also looking for 1 and a half million dollars in damages. We called someone from the City of North Las Vegas -- they said their attorney's received the lawsuit and they are preparing a response. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the City of North Las Vegas has one month to respond to this lawsuit.

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