NYPD recruits taught basic ASL as part of training to better communicate with deaf people during emergencies

The current 600 New York Police Department recruits learned basic American Sign Language as part of their training, allowing them to better communicate with the hearing impaired in emergencies.

Jessica Wohlstetter, who teaches ASL at the College of Staten Island, Hudson County Community College and Montclair State University, led the training of the newest officers, who will graduate from the police academy next month.

Wohlstetter, 42, designed the program from the ground up and told the Post the training was “long overdue.”

The first batch of students will graduate next month. Instagram @nypdequity

According to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, more than 175,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing live in the five boroughs.

“ASL is the fourth most spoken language in America, behind Chinese, Spanish and English,” she said.

“For years, the deaf community has held panel discussions with the NYPD, and they have always said they want better communication with the police.”

Jessica Wohlstetter created the program specifically for the NYPD. helaine sideman

The Staten Island mother said she will receive a signature letter in late 2022 from former NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and the department’s Deputy Secretary of Equity and Inclusion Wendy Garcia for the first batch of cadets in 2024. appointed to teach.

For example, all 600 cadets were taught to sign for the phrases “police officer,” “ambulance,” “help,” and “interpreter.”

Meanwhile, 15 other NYPD officers, children of deaf adults who can sign language and were already members of the force, recently completed an intensive eight-week program with Wohlstetter, which is accredited by the Registry of Deaf Interpreters. .

They will soon be taking the national exam to become certified ASL interpreters.

Wohlstetter said the move to teach ASL to cadets is all about inclusion. helaine sideman

Once certified, the same police officer can be called to various scenes to listen to the deaf person’s statement.

They will also be able to teach sign language to co-workers wearing uniforms.

“It’s great that the New York City Police Department has added ASL instruction to its training program,” said Kathryn Bouton, president of the New York chapter of the American Hearing Loss Association.

However, “it would be nice if we could also address the issues that people with less visible hearing loss may have.”

More than 600 cadets graduating next month have mastered five basic terms. robert miller

Bouton said people with hearing loss may not be able to understand questions or instructions and may have erratic responses.

“People with hearing loss may ask speakers to speak into a captioning device on their smartphone or into a small microphone transmitted to their hearing aids via Bluetooth, all of which can be confusing to police officers. , and may even appear threatening in some cases.A police officer who pulls over a driver also knows that the driver may be deaf or hard of hearing, even if there is no visible evidence. You should keep it.”

She said officers are already using the new training during live-action simulations at the academy.

“There is a tremendous amount of passion within the NYPD for this project,” Wohlstetter said of the first-of-its-kind program, which he hopes will become a blueprint for police departments across the country. I’m looking forward to it.

“Jersey City heard what I did for the NYPD and now they’re interested.”

Wohlstetter said he has tailored his instruction to cadets based on the types of calls cadets are likely to respond to after work, such as domestic violence allegations or calls involving children.

“Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents,” Wohlstetter said.

“Some children who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t have much interaction with adults who use sign language. If their parents haven’t learned ASL, they can only use it at school.”

But uniformed officers who have been “in the same situation as them” “could be a guiding light for them in that moment.” “Hey, I have adults here to protect me. They also sign We want to inspire children in the deaf community as well. ”