ACLU and HEARD team up with Marlee Matlin (8 Things You Should Know When Communicating with Officers)

On April 23, 2014, Actress Marlee Matlin working with ACLU and advocacy group HEARD, created an awareness video for the deaf/hard of hearing community. Actress Marlee Matlin is married to a police officer and they teamed up to create an American Sign Language video to inform deaf people to understand what their rights are when interacting with law enforcement.

The purpose of this video is to make sure that deaf/hard of hearing community members understand what their rights are when interacting with the police.

Misinformed or uneducated police officers have become a public nuisance to the community and very costly to the city they reside in because of lawsuits. Uneducated officers brutally assault deaf people since they do not take the extra time to understand nor do they properly question the suspect if the suspect is deaf.

When communicating with the police/officers, remember to do the following:

1) the first thing you can do is to be prepared have a sign in your car visor and a wallet size piece of paper in your wallet that says I am deaf or I am hard of hearing and that also states your preferred means of communication.

2) roll down your window turn off the car and place your hands on the wheel. Once you’ve made eye contact with the officer use the universal sign love deafness. Many officers will understand if that doesn’t work gesture that you need a pen and paper to write.

3) Do not touch the officer at any time although culturally deaf and hard-of-hearing people tend to touch the police officer might perceive being touched as a threat. If you need the officer’s attention wave.

4) However if you do not understand what’s going on you should repeatedly request in writing that an interpreter or another aid to help is needed such as real-time captioning or an assistive listening device. The requests should be made in writing to as many officers that are present.

5) Once you’ve made a request don’t try to keep communicating until your request has been honored. Expect to be asked for your driver’s license registration and insurance the officer may gesture to ask for these point to where you are getting your papers and get the officers to acknowledge that they understand.

6) If you have been detained but have not been arrested you have the right to ask the officer whether you are free to leave if the answer is yes do so calmly. If the answer is No you must remain on the scene even if you have not been placed under arrest.

7) If you’re stopped by an officer for questioning on the street remember to always ask if you are free to leave before walking away if you are then walk away calmly.

8) Even if the officer is signing you should wait for the certified interpreter to arrive even after the interpreter arrives do not talk to the police until your attorney arrives. Ask your attorney whether or not you should speak with the police.

Actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf and the wife of a police officer, teamed up with ACLU and advocacy group HEARD, on an American Sign Language video to ensure deaf people know their rights when interacting with law enforcement.

For more information, go to

NOTE: During interrogations, the ADA requires qualified interpreters, but certified interpreters should always be used where they are available.



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