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Wisconsin Officer Who Knows ASL Instrumental in Working With the Deaf Community – Adapted from JournalTimes.com

Deputy Preston Kite is the only law enforcement official at the Racine County Sheriff’s Office who knows American Sign Language. Kite started in law enforcement with RCSO over four years ago and has met more deaf people than he anticipated. Kite was introduced to ASL in first grade, when his class learned to sign the alphabet. In high school, deaf friends… “would get frustrated because I would spell out my whole sentence to them,” Kite said. His friends began to teach him signs. Kite took a formal ASL class in Milwaukee and uses his skills at work. Kite once assisted an officer who pulled over a deaf woman on the interstate. To help the woman see and communicate, Kite asked his partner to shine his flashlight on him, rather than the woman. Another time, Kite met a family with a deaf child while investigating another call. He saw a “Deaf Child” street sign and asked a neighbor where the child lived. Kite left his card with the child’s family and told them to reach out if their child wanted to meet him. Public Information Officer Lt. Michael Luell said the RCSO’s Training Unit is considering having Kite teach basic ASL to deputies. Racine County Communications Center also has policies, procedures and technology that assist with calls from people with disabilities, he said. “Deputies must be creative in dealing with unpredictable situations.” Racine police officers mainly use pen and paper to communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing people. Some have used various translator apps. “The deaf community kind of bumps heads with cops just simply because of the communication (issues),” he said. “The deaf person can’t hear you, so (officers) have to be cognizant of that.” Connecting with everyone in the community is important, Kite said, because “it shows both sides that people are still people.” – Editor’s note: For information regarding law enforcement and deaf people, please visit: nad.org/resources/justice/police-and-law-enforcement

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