Target: Tacoma Police Department
Goal: Reprimand officers who brutally responded to deaf woman’s plea for help, and provide training for officers in how to communicate with individuals who have disabilities
A deaf woman in distress called 911 but instead of receiving help, she was shot with a stun gun and was imprisoned for three days without being granted the right to an interpreter. The police who arrested her had been warned that she was deaf, but failed to communicate effectively with her at the scene of the arrest and immediately stunned her. Lashonn White, the victim, injured her face, neck, and arms from falling on the concrete after being stunned and was also jailed for sixty hours. The police who answered White’s plea for help with brutality must be reprimanded and be given training on how to respond to emergency situations where individuals with disabilities are present.
Lashonn White, resident of Tacoma, called 911 because she was being attacked by a guest at her apartment. She used a phone with a video camera and was answered by a certified American Sign Language interpreter, who then contacted authorities. The police who were dispatched to White’s apartment had been warned several times that White would not be able to hear them, yet when they got to her apartment, they stunned her as soon as she came running out of the building to meet them. They were yelling at her to stop, but because she could not hear them, she kept moving. She was later jailed for sixty hours without being given a certified interpreter, which is contrary to her state’s laws.
The officers responsible for stunning White say that they had yelled ‘stop’ and held up their hands as a signal for White to stop. However, neighbors who saw the incident take place say the officers did not use hand signals and that they had told the officers that White was deaf.
The way White’s incident was handled shows serious flaws in the training that police officers receive in Tacoma. Officers should take into account individuals with disabilities and accommodate their needs in emergency situations. Those responsible for arresting White and refusing to provide an interpreter should be reprimanded for their poor lack of judgment.
Dear Tacoma Police Department,
Lashonn White, a deaf woman in distress, called on Tacoma police for help but was shot with a stun gun and imprisoned for three days because your officers failed to communicate with her in a way that accommodated her disability. Not only was she injured from the fall she suffered from Tasers, but she was also jailed for three days without being granted an interpreter, which is contrary to your state’s laws.
This incident shows that your officers are lacking in basic training for how to respond to persons with disabilities in emergency situations. Additionally, the police who answered White’s plea for help with brutality should be reprimanded for ignoring warnings they were given to communicate with White in a manner that she would clearly understand, and for denying her an interpreter during her imprisonment. Please take action now to ensure that your officers are properly trained in accommodating the needs of those with disabilities who may call for help, and stop discriminating against individuals with disabilities by denying them their rights if jailed.
[Your Name Here]
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