Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Deaf Man Wins Court Victory against city of Portland

Portland will pay more than $51,000 to Philip Wolfe. We told you his story back in November here. The deaf man sued the Portland city police department for violating his ADA rights. Wolfe said there was no system in place for how officers are supposed to deal with deaf people--even though the Justice Department has created a list of recommendations for law enforcement agencies. The city admitted as much in its court filing.

The problems for Wolfe started a year ago, Wolfe left his apartment to get away from an abusive partner and had a friend call 911. His friend told police that Wolfe would need an interpreter. When officers arrived with no interpreter, Wolfe asked for one. They did not honor his request and then misunderstood his desire to report domestic abuse for wanting to get into his apartment. His partner broke in the apartment that evening and attacked him. Again, Wolfe asked his friend to call 911. Again, his friend asked for an interpreter. Police arrived without an interpreter. Once again, Wolfe asked for an interpreter. Instead of calling for an interpreter, another officer was sent to the scene who knew some ASL. But she was only a beginner and was unable adequately interpret for him. Police eventually arrested his partner, but the charges were dropped when the partner committed suicide. Now, judge Michael Mosman is ordering the city to adopt that Justice Department policy.