When there’s no money to fuel a City or feed a State, the first things to get axed are the everyday necessities of living, as well as proper access to protection and equal communication facilitation in the system.

A recent audit of the NYPD demonstrates a lack of proper language facilitation for the department:

When Esther Jimenez called the police to her Staten Island home last year, she showed them the scratches on her arm. She told them that her husband had attacked her in front of their children. He had pushed her into a wall, she said, and knocked their youngest child from her arms.

But the officers could not understand: She spoke only Spanish. They spoke English.

According to New York Police Department protocol, the officers should have gotten an interpreter for her, but Ms. Jimenez said they did not. Lawyers at Staten Island Legal Services, who represented Ms. Jimenez, 27, said the police never filed a report after the visit.

I also know through firsthand experience that the NYPD also has trouble finding interpreters for Deaf citizens in crisis and so responding officers are forced to rely on Deaf neighbors or building staff to interpret.

Some NYPD precincts even use TTY devices intended for emergency Deaf calls as “While You Were Out” notepads for typing messages to duty officers.

This sort of neighborly of fly-by-night “interpreting” for a police department in the field creates a flurry of obvious conflicts of interest and a multiplicity of sticky, complicated, and hidden, damages to human rights.

Finding a proper interpreter can be a difficult task.  Divining a way to pay an interpreter can crash budgets and bust fragile economic systems — but what other choice do we have?

We can’t mandate the USA as an “Spoken English Only” nation because that tears at the very fibers of our national warp and woof.  We have to find ways to mediate total inclusion for everyone or we risk falling as a country divided by illiteracy and a cruel want to cleave the minority power, and the disabled, from our lofty union.


  1. Some NYPD precincts even use TTY devices intended for emergency Deaf calls as “While You Were Out” notepads for typing messages to duty officers.

    Well that’s just downright disturbing, David! That sort of behavior should not be acceptable.

    1. It was definitely disturbing to see, Gordon. Few people know what a TTY looks like or what it does — so the officer “writing down phone notes” for other officers on the TTY clearly thought he was being imaginative in using a Deaf device to make his Hearing job easier.

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