MAY 17, 2016
Oakdale Police pays $30,000 in MDHR Disability Discrimination settlement
ST. PAUL, MN – The City of Oakdale Police paid $30,000 to resolve a probable cause finding of disability discrimination by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights for failure to provide effective communication to a deaf citizen sufficient to provide him meaningful access to the police department’s services.
“Ultimately, it is important for cities, police departments and government entities to examine their policies and training to ensure an inclusive environment for people with disabilities,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. “Cases involving Miranda Rights and the rights of individuals to be read their Fifth Amendment rights are central to America’s justice system. As a society, we need to be vigilant to protect a person’s basic rights and provide reasonable accommodations as required by law.”
In the complaint filed with MDHR, Alan Read, who is deaf, stated, he had requested an interpreter to communicate with the officer during an after-arrest interview on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. After he was provided with a written copy of the Miranda Rights, Mr. Read requested either an interpreter or his sister to allow him to communicate with the officer, as he was not confident in his writing skills and preferred an interpreter. According to the memorandum, the officer called Read’s sister to get information on interpreter services. When the officer reached an interpreter service, the officer stated, “We have read through the Miranda. I think he understands that. Um, I guess that I would feel better … if we’re going to use you to just go through that from the start again.”
About 30 minutes later, the officer told Mr. Read that they did not have an interpreter available. “Ironically, the officer actually spoke with (his) sister to get the contact information for the interpreter service,” the memorandum stated. “However, (the officer) did not ask the sister about her availability or willingness to interpret for (Mr. Read).”
Additionally, three days earlier, the Oakdale Police Department had provided Mr. Read a sign-language interpreter to allow him to file a complaint against an individual for an alleged theft he had experienced. At the time of the Saturday interview, Mr. Read would have been physically available to the Oakdale Police Department for the next 48-hours and there would not have been an opportunity for a first appearance in criminal court until Monday. However, the officer implied there was an obligation to complete the initial report by the end of that day’s shift, according to the Memorandum of Determination. The officer stated it was permissible to create supplemental reports that do not have a time limit, which may include Miranda information.
The MDHR investigation determined:
- Mr. Read had difficulty with understanding written language.
- The Oakdale Police Department was aware of the charging party’s struggles understanding written communication.
- The officer’s comments indicated the police department had concerns that Mr. Read did not understand its communications.
- The Oakdale Police Department did not have a policy and its officers did not have training on how to interact with deaf suspects.
- Despite the officer’s 15 years of experience working with the jail, the officer was unaware of available resources.
- The Oakdale Police Department relied upon Mr. Read for direction and solutions related to acquiring the preferred accommodation.
- Most importantly, the Oakdale Police Department repeatedly disregarded the requested use of Mr. Read’s sister, the preferred accommodation, based solely upon speculative, unfounded and unnecessary timeliness concerns.
The Read v. Oakdale Police Department settlement agreement details how the Department will update its policies, procedures and services, designate a deaf and hard-of-hearing coordinator, and provide training to staff to ensure individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing have full and equal enjoyment of public services. The Oakdale Police Department paid Mr. Read $15,000, Gilbert Law, PLLC, $10,000 and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid $5,000.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects people with disabilities from entities refusing to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability and from refusing or limiting access to public services. Disability discrimination and retaliation are two of the most common claims that MDHR investigates. Between July and December of 2015, 35 percent of the complaints involved claims of disability discrimination, without regard to the subject area, and 5 percent of the complaints were in the area of public services.
Saturday is Deaf Awareness Day and the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens will host an event in North St. Paul. If you believe you have been discriminated against in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, please contact MDHR’s enforcement unit at 651.539.1100, 1.800.657.3704 or online at mn.gov/mdhr/intake. For more information about disability discrimination, please visit mn.gov/mdhr or follow the conversation on Twitter at Twitter at @mnhumanrights.
Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Communications Department
Freeman Building, 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155
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