The deaf community in the United States is condemning the actions of North Las Vegas police officers who allegedly handcuffed a deaf motorist in the presence of her 11-year-old twins and then made the minors interpret for them, FOX5 reports.
The incident reportedly occurred when the woman, identified as Andrea “Dre” Hollingsworth, went to her former landlord to collect a rent refund after moving out early. The landlord, however, called the police on her and when they arrived, a confrontation ensued.
In an interview with the news outlet, Hollingsworth said she was unable to effectively communicate with the officers due to her condition, adding that she also did not know why she was pulled over.
“I don’t know, I’m being pulled over and he is interrogating me … I am black, I am deaf, George Floyd just happened,” Hollingsworth, who streamed the encounter on Facebook Live, said. “The police officer pulled my arm … and I was like, ‘whoa, why?’ I have never experienced anything like that in my life.”
Hollingsworth’s twin daughters were in the car during the stop and the officer also ordered them to exit the vehicle. Meanwhile, Hollingsworth said she told the officer the only way they could communicate was through texting and writing but “he just kept on talking.”
In the video, the officer is heard telling the twins their mother is being investigated. One of the girls also tries to explain what their mother is doing in the area. “She is just here because she needs her money back from her friend,” she tells the officer.
The confrontation, however, escalated and Hollingsworth said the officer forcefully made her sit on the curb of the road after she came out of her car. She was later handcuffed while her children watched screaming. From that point, Hollingsworth said she was unable to sign.
“Tell her to put her hands behind her back,” an officer is heard saying in the video. “One of you guys need to talk some sense into her.”
Responding to the incident, the North Las Vegas Police Department said Hollingsworth “initially refused to comply with requests and was briefly detained until police completed their investigation.”
Speaking to FOX5, deaf rights lawyer Andrew Rozynski said the officers making Hollingsworth’s twins interpret for them was illegal. “Requiring an 11-year-old to interpret in a police situation is against the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are regulations in there that expressly prohibit children from being used as interpreters,” he said.
Quite a handful of police departments reportedly have round-the-clock interpreter services to facilitate effective communication in these kinds of scenarios. “There are services out there such as video relay, in which someone can bring up an interpreter on an iPhone or iPad,” Rozynski revealed.
Hollingsworth said the incident likely left her twin daughters scared and devastated. “I never thought this would happen to me because I am not a criminal,” she said. “My kids are afraid because of all the incidents that have been happening recently. They are raised Black in this community, so when they see a police officer, they are also on high alert.”
To prevent future occurrences of such nature, the Black mother said she wants to see reform in the city’s policing. “I really want all of Las Vegas police to change, because it is really scary how deaf people are treated. If my kids weren’t with me, then I would have died that day. My kids saved my life,” she said.