CBC WINNIPEG -- Two young Winnipeggers are urging Winnipeg Police Service to be more professional when dealing with people who are Deaf after both experienced officers who didn't believe them and refused to try to communicate with them at traffic stops.
Dana Zimmer and Jenna Irwin both experienced incredulous officers who didn't initially believe they were Deaf during traffic stops.
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"It's happened a few times. I'm not a bad driver but it has happened a few times, and sometimes my interactions with police are very cordial – very simple, I'll get a ticket and that's it, but every once in a while it's just a little bit different," said Zimmer.
Zimmer remembers a time a few years ago when she was pulled over, and the officer started talking to her after she rolled down her window.
"Of course they'll be talking, that's natural, that's what they would normally do, and I gestured that I'm a Deaf individual and I use sign language," she said. "They just kind of gave me this look like they didn't believe me. They didn't actually think I was a Deaf person so they just kept talking to me as if I could understand them."
Zimmer said she tried again to communicate that she was Deaf, but the officer seemed frustrated.
"I felt that I needed to prove myself as a Deaf individual, and I didn't know how I was going to do that other than saying that I was Deaf. I felt that they just didn't believe me," she said.
Zimmer said the officer motioned for her to get a pen and paper, which she didn't have handy, so he went to his car and came back with a ticket.
She said the ticket had to do with a new rule she wasn't aware of.
"When someone says they're Deaf, they need to be able to interact with them in an appropriate way," said Zimmer. "You're going to be interacting with different people in the community, and it needs to always be professional."
Irwin has experienced the same thing. She says it usually takes several gestures and requests to have officers believe she is Deaf. "I think the first and second time they try to talk, and they think I'm lying, and then I'm like, 'No, I can't understand you,'" she said.
She recently had an experience on her way home from work where she tried to use a pen and paper to communicate with an officer, but he refused. He went back to his cruiser car and she waited 45 minutes for another officer to show up who knew some sign language.
She says the officer could've communicated to her he was calling someone who knew sign, but he refused to use a pen and paper to communicate.
"I think sometimes the police officers just don't want to take the time or make the effort to communicate with us," she said. I think we all want to be treated equally. We want to feel as though we're the same as everybody else, and communication is very important. Eye contact is very important. I'm not too sure why they would assume we should be treated any differently just because we're Deaf."
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