For Pearl Pearson, a 64-year-old deaf man, a routine traffic stop led to a brutal assault by police. When an officer shouted instructions, he attempted to show the patrolman that he was deaf. That’s when the officer pulled him from his car and according to Pearson, beat him for not following verbal orders.I hope something good comes from it. Predictably, though, I think there's a deeper problem than response to deaf people. This story has dash-cam video and reports on the officers being cleared of any wrongdoing, as frequently happens in these cases. My emphasis.
The Department of Justice can help put an end to these tragedies. Police departments need up-to-date guidance and training from the DOJ on how law enforcement must interact with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, as obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol did not interview Pearl Pearson during the course of their investigation because of a disagreement about their interpreter.Yes, by all means, the DOJ needs to update standards for dealing with deaf people. I've written about this specific issue before in various essays, and there are many other examples. But as always, I believe that the deeper issue is the cult of compliance.
However, Pearson and his attorney, Billy Coyle did submit an affidavit explaining that Pearson wasn’t reaching for a weapon during the stop, but that he was reaching for a hearing impaired placard so that he could communicate with the officers.
The troopers believed he was reaching for a gun.
“You have to comply with law enforcement.” Prater said. “They have to see your hands. Your hands can kill someone. That’s what you grab something with. That’s what you punch people with. That’s what you stab people with. That’s what you shoot people with: your hands.”
When the cuffs were finally on, and Pearson was in police custody his face bore the marks of the violent arrest.
The problem is that Pearson is deaf.
The problem is that Pearson is black.
The problem is that non-compliance justifies getting physical.
I am increasingly skeptical that CIT training or better training for responding to deaf people or blind people or transgender people (the DOJ recently put out new standards for that situation), or whatever will really help. At best, it might carve our a small class of protected people, and that's good, they need protection.
On the other hand, I think we all need protection.