Witnesses say San Diego, CA Police used excessive force when they used pepper sprayed and a taser during the vicious arrest of a deaf mute man Monday afternoon in Hillcrest.
Tiara Arreloa, employee of a clothing store on 5th Avenue, said the man illegally parked in a commercial loading zone to make a quick stop in her store to sell shoes, reported ABC10.
“He couldn’t speak, so he was communicating via a legal pad we had. As he was writing something to ask us, he saw that he was going to get a ticket,” said Arreloa.
The man ran outside and was trying to communicate with the female traffic enforcement officer, but he is unable to speak.
Probably fearing for her life from the unarmed deaf mute shoe salesman, the officer decided to pepper-spray the man in the face.
“There were customers going in and everyone was really frightened.” Arreloa said. “It got so bad, the water wasn’t helping, so we had to go to a restaurant and ask them for milk to neutralize the spice, the heat.”
Two more officers and a private security guard showed up to help assault the nonviolent man.
“Me and my co-workers were yelling he is deaf! He is deaf!” said Arreloa.
One of the officers used a taser on the man.
“It ends up with three men on top of him,” Arreloa said. “This poor man on the ground can’t even communicate, but they are forcing him down on the ground over a parking ticket.”
When paramedics arrived, they were able to communicate with the man. Police were uneducated on how to communicate with or deal with this deaf man.
Police say a motorcycle officer sent out a call for back up and they confirm a taser was used, but what led to the confrontation is under review. The 35-year-old man, whose name hasn’t been identified, is charged with battery on a police officer. The traffic officer says he slapped her arm.
As expected, the brutal officer’s claim differs from other witnesses.
“He wasn’t touching her, his hands were just here. He was trying to talk to her, ” insisted Arreloa.
A spokeswoman with Deaf Community Services of San Diego believes there is a serious lack of training for police on how to deal with deaf people.
“The police really need some serious training and they need to learn how to become aware of the deaf community,” said Aline Smith, Director of Media and Community Education.
DCS recently launched a new program to help local law enforcement communicate with deaf drivers. It involves having a deaf driver keep a flier in their visor with symbols and tips to help police communicate with them.
“They need to learn cultural norms of the deaf community and learn how to identify if a person is deaf or hearing,” Smith said. “That way they know how to treat them when they are pulled over.”
She says facial expressions can sometimes be misunderstood, especially if a deaf person is upset.
“Doesn’t mean I would become aggressive, but maybe my facial expressions, just like people who can hear and can speak, they have different vocal tone. The deaf community has the same thing in their facial expression, so my face might have been frustrated or upset,” said Smith who added dealing with law enforcement can be especially intimidating.
“Deaf people are afraid of the police. If police are behind me with the siren, oh, it’s extremely frightening for me,” Smith said. “It’s important that people take the time and are patient in order to assess what’s really happening.”
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)