Quantcast

Exclusive: NYPD begins summer-long outreach effort to deaf/hard-of-hearing New Yorkers

DSC00566 copy
NYPD begins summer long deaf and hard of hearing outreach.
Photo by Dean Moses

When deaf and hard-of-hearing parishioners of St. Thomas More’s Church at 65 East 89th St. on the Upper East Side left Mass on Sunday afternoon, they were greeted to a street fair courtesy of the NYPD.

Smoke bellowed from a barbecue as an officer flipped burgers and sausages, young children were given rides in the sidecar of a police motorcycle while adults engaged in sign-language conversations with NYPD officers. This community meet and greet was designed by the NYPD to show the hearing impaired that they are not alone, and can become members of the department themselves. It’s part of the NYPD’s largest outreach effort to the community in the department’s history.

“Today is the start of something really, really big. This summer we are looking to hire 32 deaf and hard of hearing young people. We’re going to place them in precincts, specialized commands with our officers that know sign language and also our civilian staff who are fully deaf and they’ll be supervising the deaf young people. It’s just the start of really us being able to engage the deaf and hard of hearing community,” Alden Foster told amNewYorkMetro, the Director of Youth Services and Community Engagement at the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

The event also looked to emphasize the ways in which the deaf community can connect with the NYPD. Members of the NYPD who use sign language were made available for questions and overall conversation while others explained how 911 can also be texted for assistance for those who can’t call. 

“I think it’s important for us to bring the resources, to let them know we have members that have service that know sign language, but I think the most important thing, most people don’t realize, is that you can also work with NYPD if you’re deaf. We have full time employees,” Foster added.

In addition to discussing important safety issues, the community also joined the police department for fun and games. Adults played Connect 4 while children played video games inside the NYPD’s very own mobile game truck.

According to Officer Angel Familia, this is exactly what was needed after a pandemic that was especially hard on the deaf and hard of hearing.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

“It was very difficult because I mean, as you can imagine, sign language includes the mouthing, the gestures, the facial expressions, the eyebrows, that’s all part of the language itself. So, the fact that we had to wear a mask, it’s very difficult. It’s a barrier on top of another barrier to communicate,” Familia said. 

Familia has a special relationship with the deaf community. Born to deaf parents he served as their interpreter growing up and describes learning to speak verbally as akin to another language. It is through this understanding that Familia yearns to help serve as a bridge between the NYPD and the hearing impaired.

“I’m very thrilled to actually see my vision become a reality, being able to bridge the police department and the deaf community. I’m happy to see our police officers here, and the deaf community of New York here engaging with each other, really understanding the needs, and how can we improve on our communication,” Familia said.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

More from around NYC