35 cops get sign language certification
Training should see improvements in communication with deaf communityWednesday, September 22, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Jamaican Deaf Community is expected to be better able to communicate with the police following the recent training and certification of 35 cops in basic sign language.
The law enforcement officers assigned to the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, Community Safety and Security Branch, and the Mandeville and Half-Way-Tree police stations, spent three months learning to communicate with the deaf.
Speaking at yesterday's certification ceremony at Mandeville Police Station, president of the National Police Youth Club Council, and project manager for Safe and Sound JA Letesha Whyte explained the importance of improved communication between the deaf and the police.
“[It] is designed to address the communication barrier between the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the deaf community. A police report is the single most important document between a victim and justice. It is the first and necessary step towards a case being admissible in court,” she said.
“The police officers were taught basic sign language… This initiative is perfect in the celebration of International Week of Deaf Community [the last week of September yearly],” she added.
The initiative is part of a US$10,000 grant provided to nine other youth groups by the United Nations Development Programme Multi-Country Office in Jamaica under its Amplifying Youth Voice and Action project.
Trudy Powell, Knockpatrick campus manager for the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf, said she was appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with the police.
“The goal of this project to address the communication barriers that exist in our community for the deaf will help to alleviate an existing problem. This is a great initiative. This will serve in providing a medium which supports flexibility for the [Jamaica Constabulary Force] members, the deaf community and your interpreters,” she said.
Andre Witter, who represented the deaf community, said he and other members of the community can now feel “human”.
“We have experienced a lot of struggles with communication access and sometimes we feel as if we are left out, but again you thought about us and you made it accessible for us. We are really excited for today,” he said.
“Now I can feel human and we can go to police stations and make reports on our own… Often times we go to the police stations and we are struggling, and we don't know if the report is the right information… But this project is a new chapter for the deaf community,” he added.
Head of operations for the Manchester police Deputy Superintendent Anthony Lewis was pleased to see the project come to fruition.
“In 1984, during a course that I started out, we attempted a project like this, but somewhere along the line it failed, so we are hoping that there is a continuity clause in this one where every six months or a year we do some refreshers because as you know police transfer from time to time — you may have one [interpreter] at Mandeville and for some reason that person is transferred out of the division. This is a very important project and as the police force evolves over the years we are now in our fourth paradigm of policing,” he said.
“We are hoping that this continues and involves persons from the Criminal Investigations Branch, because we find from time to time that there are a lot of disadvantages [for] persons who cannot speak,” he added.