The New York Police Department (NYPD) is pioneering a significant initiative to enhance communication with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Recognizing the essential need for inclusivity and equity in policing, NYPD has introduced American Sign Language (ASL) training for all new police recruits at the New York Police Academy.

With over 175,000 individuals in New York City identified as Deaf or Hard of Hearing, effective communication is crucial, not just for community engagement but also for ensuring safety and swift response in emergencies.

This is why more than 600 NYPD recruits recently received basic ASL training. The training was part of a broader department-wide program to equip officers with ASL skills.

A Dual Approach to Communication

Understanding that ASL does not mirror English, and that written communication may not suffice, the recruits learned critical signs including “interpreter,” “cop,” “ambulance,” and “help.” These signs were chosen to facilitate immediate and clear communication in common emergency scenarios, such as identifying themselves as officers or inquiring if an individual needs medical assistance.

To further support this initiative, the NYPD has also integrated the LanguageLine app into their operations. This app, installed on officers' phones and other wireless devices, provides instant access to live interpreters for ASL as well as more than 240 spoken languages.

WATCH: New York PD Recruits Receive ASL Training

When the ASL option is selected, officers can connect through a video call with an ASL interpreter, ensuring that communication barriers are minimized and help can be efficiently rendered.

Leadership and Vision

Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion Wendy Garcia emphasized the importance of responsive communication in police work.

"The core job of what we do requires communication," Garcia said. “The ability to interact effectively with all community members, regardless of hearing ability, is integral to the roles of NYPD officers.”

During the training sessions, recruits practiced realistic scenarios with volunteers, including traffic stops and precinct interactions involving Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals. Recruits used either their new ASL skills or the LanguageLine app to address these situations.

Rapid Implementation and Community Impact

By empowering NYPD officers with both ASL skills and access to LanguageLine interpreters, New York City is taking critical steps toward ensuring that its police force can serve all citizens effectively and empathetically. This initiative not only enhances the NYPD's operational capabilities but also strengthens trust and builds deeper connections within the diverse communities of New York City.

Interested in learning more about how the LanguageLine app can enhance safety in your community? We invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our language experts. You can also gain a more in-depth understanding of the app here.

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