This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice (Department of Justice) against the North Kingstown Police Department. The complaint was received by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, under the authority of 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F. The complainant, who is deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate, alleges that he was a witness to an accident but that on two occasions the North Kingstown Police Department failed to provide an interpreter to provide effective communication when he was being interviewed by the North Kingstown Police Department. The respondent, North Kingstown, Rhode Island (the Town), denies complainant's allegations and asserts that the North Kingstown Police Department repeatedly offered the complainant an interpreter for the purpose of taking his statement for the police report
The Department of Justice is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to investigate fully the allegations of the complaint in this matter to determine the North Kingstown Police Department's compliance with title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Justice's implementing regulation, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to negotiate and to secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 12133, to bring civil action enforcing title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should the Department of Justice fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F. In consideration of the terms of this Settlement Agreement as set forth below, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation, and from filing civil suit, in this matter.
The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America and the North Kingstown Police Department. The parties agree that this Settlement Agreement is not an admission of any violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and should not be construed as an admission by the North Kingstown Police Department of any such violation.
In the interests of securing compliance by voluntary means, the parties hereby agree as follows:
1. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the North Kingstown Police Department because it is a public entity as defined in the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104.
2. The subject of this Settlement Agreement is a written policy which is attached as Exhibit A (Policy), that requires that in those situations where the provision of interpreting services is necessary to ensure effective communication, the North Kingstown Police Department will, upon reasonable notice, secure qualified interpreting services.
3. In order to ensure effective communication with members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing in the North Kingstown Police Department's services, programs, and activities, the North Kingstown Police Department agrees:
a. To provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, at the North Kingstown Police Department's expense, including qualified interpreters, when necessary to afford a qualified individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by the North Kingstown Police Department;
b. To give primary consideration to the requests of individuals with disabilities, in determining what type of auxiliary aid or service is necessary; and
c. To notify individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing about the provision of auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective participation. The North Kingstown Police Department will make provision for this information to be advertised in a newspaper of local circulation (The Standard Times) twice within sixty days from the effective date of this settlement agreement.
4. Within 30 days of the effective date of this Settlement Agreement, the North Kingstown Police Department will instruct all of its employees to comply with the Policy on effective communication in all situations involving an individual who is deaf or hearing-impaired and shall distribute a written copy of the Policy to each North Kingstown Police Officer.
5. Within 150 days of the effective date of this Settlement Agreement, the North Kingstown Police Department will submit a report to the Department of Justice detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provisions.
6. This Settlement Agreement is a public document. A copy of this Settlement Agreement, including Exhibit A, or any information contained in it may be made available to any person. The North Kingstown Town Manager will provide a copy of the Settlement Agreement, including Exhibit A, to any person on request.
7. The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Settlement Agreement at any time. If the Department of Justice believes that this Settlement Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute civil action seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Settlement Agreement in an appropriate Federal Court.
8. Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce this entire Settlement Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Settlement Agreement.
9. The effective date of this Settlement Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
10. This Settlement Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this Settlement Agreement, will be enforceable under its provisions. This Settlement Agreement is limited to the facts set forth in the first introductory paragraph, and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other Federal law. This Settlement Agreement does not affect the North Kingstown Police Department's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For the United States:
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
JOAN MAGAGNA, Deputy Chief
KIRK M. FLAGG, Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738
For the North Kingstown
NORTH KINGSTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IN SITUATIONS
INVOLVING INDIVIDUALS WITH HEARING IMPAIRMENTS
It is the policy of the North Kingstown Police Department that it will furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing impairments.
1. Auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters, written materials, note pads, and other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments.
2. The North Kingstown Police Department must provide an opportunity for individuals with hearing impairments to request the auxiliary aids and services of their choice and must give primary consideration to the choice expressed by the individuals. "Primary Consideration" means that the North Kingstown Police Department must honor the choice, unless it can show that another effective means of communication is available, or that use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.
3. This policy addresses those situations where a police officer, after consulting with the individual with a hearing impairment, determines that the services of a qualified interpreter are necessary to ensure effective communication.
A. ARREST UPON PROBABLE CAUSE WHERE INTERVIEW IS NOT NECESSARY
In circumstances where an individual without a hearing impairment would be arrested on probable cause without an interview, then a suspect with a hearing impairment can be arrested in the same situation and does not need to be provided with a qualified interpreter since no interview is required.
A qualified interpreter may still be required if an officer is unable to convey to the arrestee the nature of the criminal charges by communicating on a note pad or by using another means of communication. The arrestee should be transported to a holding cell at the North Kingstown Police Department. Either the arresting officer or the transporting officer can convey the information through the interpreter when the interpreter arrives.
B. INTERVIEW PRIOR TO THE ARREST OF AN INDIVIDUAL WITH A HEARING IMPAIRMENT
If a police officer needs to interview a suspect with a hearing impairment to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest, a qualified interpreter must be provided if the written communication is ineffective. When the services of a qualified interpreter are required to provide effective communication, but the circumstances do not permit the officer to wait until a qualified interpreter arrives, the officer must postpone the interview and possible arrest until the officer can make arrangements for a qualified interpreter to be present. If postponement is not possible, the officer must document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the appropriate report.
C. INTERROGATING AN ARRESTEE WITH A HEARING IMPAIRMENT
If an officer cannot effectively inform the arrestee of the Miranda warnings without the use of an interpreter, then the officer must secure the services of a qualified interpreter in order to communicate accurately the warnings to the arrestee prior to any interrogation.
An officer seeking to interrogate an arrestee with a hearing impairment must obtain the services of a qualified interpreter prior to any interrogation whenever an interpreter is needed for effective communication. If circumstances do not permit the officer to wait, and if written communication between the officer and the arrestee was effective in conveying an understanding of the Miranda warnings, and if the arrestee specifically declines the opportunity to communicate through an interpreter, the officer may proceed with the interrogation by using a note pad. However, if written communication becomes ineffective, for example, because the factual pattern is complex, because the arrestee is having difficulty communicating without an interpreter, or because the arrestee chooses to discontinue the interrogation, the officer must discontinue the interrogation and wait until a qualified interpreter is present before continuing the interrogation. In most instances, a qualified interpreter will be available and the interrogation will not be delayed.
D. ISSUANCE OF A NON-CRIMINAL CITATION
In circumstances in which an individual without a hearing impairment would have been issued a non-criminal citation without being questioned by the investigating officer, then a suspect with a hearing impairment in the same situation may be issued a citation and does not need to be provided with a qualified interpreter.
If an officer has stopped a suspect for committing a non-criminal infraction and if the officer is unable to convey to the violator the nature of the non-criminal infraction by communicating on a note pad or by using another means of communication, then the officer should use his or her discretion as to whether to call a qualified interpreter to the scene or whether to refrain from issuing a citation.
E. INTERVIEWING A VICTIM OR CRITICAL WITNESS WITH A HEARING IMPAIRMENT
If an officer is able to communicate effectively by writing questions on a note pad and having the victim or witness with a hearing impairment write his or her responses, then the officer may proceed with the interview using a note pad. However, if an investigating officer is unable to communicate effectively with a victim or critical witness by using a note pad or some other means of communication other than a qualified interpreter, then the investigating officer must provide the victim or critical witness with a qualified interpreter. If the investigating officer cannot wait until a qualified interpreter arrives, and if the investigating officer cannot arrange a later meeting with the victim or critical witness with a qualified interpreter present, the investigating officer must then document his or her investigation as completely as possible and file the report.
Identifying information about the interpreter must be included in the report. All written questions and responses between and among police officers and persons with hearing impairments must be treated as evidence and handled accordingly. A copy of the written questions and responses must be forwarded with the police report, and the originals must be placed into evidence.
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February 7, 2001