On-Call Interpretive Services

The Department will maintain a list of sign language and oral interpreting services that are available (on-call 24 hours per day) and willing to provide qualified interpreters as needed. Each of these services will be chosen after having been screened for the quality and skill of its interpreters, its reliability, and other factors such as cost. The Department will update this list annually. 

Sign Language or Oral Interpreters

A qualified sign language or oral interpreter is one who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. Accordingly, an interpreter must be able to sign to the deaf individual (or interpret orally to the person who does not use sign language) what is being said by the hearing person and to voice to the hearing person what is being signed or said by the deaf individual. The interpreter must be able to interpret in the language the deaf person uses (e.g., American Sign Language or Signed English) and must be familiar with law enforcement terms and phrases. 

Because a qualified interpreter must be able to interpret impartially, a family member, child, or friend of the individual who is deaf may not be qualified to render the necessary interpretation because of factors such as professional, emotional, or personal involvement, or considerations of confidentiality. Additionally, although a “qualified” interpreter may be certified, a certified interpreter is not necessarily “qualified,” if he or she is not a good communications match for the deaf person (e.g., where the deaf person uses Signed English and the interpreter uses American Sign Language) or the situation (e.g., where the interpreter is unfamiliar with law enforcement vocabulary). Certification is not required in order for an interpreter to be “qualified.”

TTY & Relay Services

In situations when a non-disabled person would have access to a telephone, officers must provide persons who are deaf or hard of hearing the opportunity to place calls using a text telephone (TTY, also known as a telecommunications device for deaf people, or TDD). Officers must also accept telephone calls placed by persons who are deaf or hard of hearing through the Telecommunications Relay Service.

Techniques for Officers to Communicate Effectively

Officers must review and have a working knowledge of Guide for Law Enforcement Officers When In Contact With People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, a copy of which is attached as Exhibit A. This document reviews how officers should communicate effectively in the types of situations officers will encounter. These situations include:

  • Issuing a non-criminal or motor vehicle citation
  • Communicating with a person who initiates contact with an officer
  • Interviewing a victim or critical witness to an incident
  • Questioning a person who is a suspect in a crime
  • Making an arrest or taking a person into custody
  • Issuing Miranda Warnings to a person under arrest or in custody
  • Interrogating a person under arrest or in custody

Types of Auxiliary Aids & Services

Officers must utilize the following auxiliary aids, when available, to communicate effectively:

  • Use of gestures
  • Use of visual aids
  • Exchange of written notes
  • Use of computers or typewriters
  • Use of assisted listening devices
  • Use of teletypewriters (TTYs)
  • Use of qualified oral or sign language interpreters