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The D.C. Police Department's Deaf Liaison

VIDEO: Deaf News: Meet the DC Police Department's Deaf Liaison officers.

WASHINGTON -- NBC4: For more than a decade, the D.C. police department's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit has been building bridges with the Deaf community.

It's the only specialized police unit in the country dedicated to protecting Deaf people.

Officer Myra Jordan came up with the idea 14 years ago. She learned sign language as a child, when she played with a neighbor who was Deaf.


The 25-year veteran of the department went to the chief with her idea to combine her love for police work and sign language.

"The Metropolitan Police Department was struggling with communicating or interacting with the Deaf community, and we needed to build that bridge," Jordan said.

She was joined on the unit two years ago by Officer Teyna Ellis. She learned how to sign so she could help at her church.

In addition to the pair's regular patrol duties, they train other officers in the basics of communicating with Deaf people, like "knowing the universal sign of a Deaf person, to be able to communicate with them during a traffic stop," Ellis said.

Advocates for the Deaf community say the liaison unit has made a particularly big impact in dealing with Deaf victims of domestic violence.

"In the past, people didn’t know who to talk with and they didn’t feel comfortable making the report because they didn’t know who is going to understand me ... but now there is someone who speaks my language," said Shazia Siddiqi. She is executive director of the organization DAWN, which aims to end abuse in the Deaf community.

Jordan said the unit's work is paying off for police and for the community. She says it comes down to one word: trust.

"The officers aren't afraid of the unknown because they know the unknown now, and the community isn't afraid because they trust the police," she said.

Ellis and Jordan regularly get requests to help train officers from other police departments. They said they're proud that D.C. is leading the nation.

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