March 12, 2001 Copyright 2001 LRP Publications Disability Compliance Bulletin March 12, 2001
(LOS ANGELES) -- A class action lawsuit filed in a California federal District Court last month alleges that the Los Angeles Police Department is violating the ADA and other laws by failing to ensure effective communication with individuals who have hearing impairments. The lawsuit was precipitated by alleged events concerning the department's interaction with a deaf 72-year-old retiree, who claims that officers assaulted him after he tried to use sign language to communicate with them.
According to the complaint, filed by the Western Law Center for Disability Rights in Los Angeles, police were called to the scene of an argument involving plaintiff Sanford Diamond in October 1999. Even though the responding officers recognized that Diamond has a hearing impairment, the suit says, they did not make an attempt to determine how effective communication could take place. Instead, it goes on, officers knocked Diamond to the ground when he tried to communicate with them via the use of American Sign Language, injuring his shoulders, wrist, back and face. To make matters worse, the suit says, the officers then handcuffed Diamond and arrested him for interfering with a police investigation. The officers could have enabled effective communication by using a pen and paper, written notes or interpreter services, the suit alleges.It claims that the police denied Diamond's request for a qualified sign language interpreter, and that Diamond did not even know why he was being held.