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Erie County: Bridging communication gap between law enforcement, deaf/hard of hearing community

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Wed, Feb 5th 2020 06:20 pm
From left: Town of Amherst Police Chief John Askey, Deaf Access Services Community Engagement Specialist David Wantuck, Executive Director of Deaf Access Services Pamela Kefi, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled Frank A. Cammarata, and Niagara University First Responder Disability Awareness Project Director David Whalen at Wednesday's announcement of a new communications tool designed to improve communications between the police and the hard of hearing and deaf community during routine law enforcement traffic stops.
From left: Town of Amherst Police Chief John Askey, Deaf Access Services Community Engagement Specialist David Wantuck, Executive Director of Deaf Access Services Pamela Kefi, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled Frank A. Cammarata, and Niagara University First Responder Disability Awareness Project Director David Whalen at Wednesday's announcement of a new communications tool designed to improve communications between the police and the hard of hearing and deaf community during routine law enforcement traffic stops.

Mobile app will be utilized by law enforcement during traffic stops with deaf/hard of hearing individuals

Amherst Police Department training in app usage this week; allows for a real-time sign language interpreter to assist in communications

A new communications tool, designed to improve communications between the police and the hard of hearing and deaf community during routine law enforcement traffic stops, will soon be implemented in Erie County after being announced at the Town of Amherst Police Training Facility.

The project will supply Amherst Police Department patrol supervisors with mobile devices on a 24-hour basis, each device equipped with an app that can be utilized during traffic stops with a person who indicates that they are deaf or hard of hearing. The app will allow for a real-time sign language interpreter to assist in the communication between the deaf person and the police officer.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today joined Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz, Town of Amherst Police Chief John Askey, Executive Director of Deaf Access Services Pamela Kefi, and Niagara University First Responder Disability Awareness Project Director David Whalen to unveil and demonstrate the app.

“This technology will be a tremendous help to the deaf and hard of hearing community and will lead to better, more productive interactions with law enforcement,” Poloncarz said. “We will continue to make Erie County a more inclusive community, and bridging communication gaps is a good way to do that. I thank the partners who came together to make this project and look forward to its eventual use countywide.”

Jancewicz said, “This technology is an excellent example of Central Police Services working closely with our partners to provide critical services to improve the safety and welfare of our entire community.”

Erie County Central Police Services has been working with the APD, Deaf Access Services, and the NU first responder disability awareness program to create and implement the pilot project. The four agencies conducted in-service training on the app for every Town of Amherst police officer this week, followed by implementation of the project throughout the town. The long-term goal is to utilize the technology and best practices developed by the APD throughout the entire county to improve the safety of the deaf community and police officers.

Askey said, “The Amherst Police Department is proud of our partnership with Erie County, Deaf Access Services and the first responder disability awareness program, which collaborated to conduct this pilot program in Erie County to better serve the residents of the Town of Amherst and eventually all of Erie County.”

Kefi added, “Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., is pleased to work alongside our partners to implement this important project. Historically, there has been very little language access for deaf and hard of hearing people with law enforcement and first responders.”

Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled Frank A. Cammarata also joined the announcement.

“It’s wonderful to see the Amherst Police Department working with the deaf and hard of hearing community on this project,” HE said. “It is vital for all public safety agencies to work inclusively and understand the specific needs of each community.”

David Wantuck, Deaf Access Services community engagement specialist, said, “Although an in-person interpreter is always most effective, our new video remote interpreting system will allow for immediate language access for the Amherst Police Department and the deaf community.”

For more information about other ways to use the Deaf Access Services video remote interpreting services, contact Jodie Chibi, director of interpreting services, at 716-833-1637, ext. 105.

For more information on the Department of Central Police Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/cps/; or on Deaf Access Services, visit http://www.wnydas.org/.

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