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NYPD and Video Relay Service

For many years, the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities in New York had been pleading for the local police departments to come up with better communication methods. The city has settled many lawsuits from deaf citizens who were handcuffed and unable to communicate with their arresting officers. Recently, there has been some progress within police organizations. Since April 2017, the New York Police Department has been using Video Relay Service (VRS), specifically for communication purposes with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Every police officer is provided a tablet that is small enough to carry around and is ready to use whenever needed. The sole purpose of those tablets is to connect to VRS interpreters. There are 200,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens in New York and many of them rely on sign language. It is their hope that VRS will assist in emergency and high stress situations.


An organization called the Deaf Justice Coalition is overseeing the implementation. The use of VRS started in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Their success led to an expansion to four other precincts. There is one in the Upper West Side, one in Harlem, and two in the Bronx.


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