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Special card will improve communication for deaf people during traffic stop

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Memphis Police Department is working to improve relationships with the deaf community.

In September, a deaf man was shot by police in Oklahoma City while trying to communicate with officers.

Deaf Connect in Memphis is now working to prevent a similar incident from happening in the Mid-South.

Summer Chappell serves as director of community services for Deaf Connect.

Growing up with a deaf mother, American Sign Language was Chappell’s first language.

Now fluent in both English and ASL, Chappell came to realize the growing need for more awareness between the deaf community and our city's law enforcement officers.

“Just extra awareness and education to prevent horrible things from happening,” Chappell said

Through a partnership with Deaf Connect, Memphis police and the Shelby County Sheriff's Office are taking a proactive step to improve their communication skills with the deaf community.

“Some of them shared a lot of frustrations that they had,” Chappell said. “That they were incredibly frustrated with the inability to communicate.”

More than 200 MPD CIT officers learned basic sign language and were taught to look for cards that say “Deaf” or “Hard of Hearing” during traffic stops.

The cards list the various reasons an officer would pull a driver over, like texting or a broken taillight, and immediately opens up the line of communication.

“This is absolutely probably one of the best things I've seen in law enforcement,” said CIT coordinator Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Beasley. “As simple as it is, but it's one of the best tools we are going to have now to help with communication."

Beasley said training has made the department change the way it interacts with the deaf community for the better.

For more information, visit Deaf Connect's website here

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