A new pocket guide, Signs of the Law, has been delivered to the Colorado Springs Police Department to help officers communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Police worked with the Rocky Mountain ADA Center to design the guide to meet the department’s needs.

It has pictures that show how to use American Sign Language, with 30 signs such as license/ID, fast/speeding, what happened and lawyer, plus nine tips on interacting with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“Creating effective communication programs between our officers and all our citizens is critical to the work we do to serve Colorado Springs,” Police Chief Vince Niski said. “We are happy to launch this new pocket guide that will enhance the way our officers communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing community.”

Conflict between police and hearing-impaired people often stems from the cultural differences in communication, said Ryan Commerson, a Colorado Springs resident who is deaf.

“Law enforcement is all about commanding voices, and we do not respond to voices for the most part,” Commerson said. “We are all about body language, and our use of body language to communicate is what police officers are trained to interpret as threat. So this often results in excessive force.”

He said the pocket guide is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a total solution.

“It can be successful and effective in a limited scope,” Commerson said. “I can see this being used as a reference after learning some signs from an instructor to help police officers remember what they’ve already learned.”

A training video of the basic signs essential to officers’ needs also was provided to supplement the pocket guide.

“Colorado Springs Police Department deserves a great deal of credit for being the first department in the Rocky Mountain region to partner on a guide of this nature. We are hopeful other agencies in the region and across the U.S. will look to the department’s leadership and vision on this front and will consider having a guide like this developed by our team in the future,” said Dana Barton, director of the Rocky Mountain Americans with Disabilities Act Center.

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@JessySnouwaert

Jessica is a 2019 intern at The Gazette. She is a Colorado native who is currently a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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