Deaf police officers help monitor Oaxaca city streets

November 19, 2013 in Community Events, Hearing Loss & Deafness

By Jose Maria Alvarez, The Associated Press November 19, 2013 1:00 PM

For the full article: http://bit.ly/1egqROL

OAXACA, Mexico – Members of the newest police force in the colonial city of Oaxaca can’t hear or speak.

A group called the Angels of Silence operates the city’s surveillance cameras to look for crimes being committed on its streets.

Cynthia Zepeda, director of Oaxaca state’s emergency services, said the officers have a highly developed visual sense and are not easily distracted.

“They allow us to notice situations that maybe a person who doesn’t have that disability wouldn’t notice. They read lips and can perceive suspicious movements in people,” Zepeda said.

On a recent afternoon, one of the officers noticed a man acting suspiciously around a woman. When the officer had the surveillance camera close in on the couple he saw the man was passing her a small plastic bag that seemed to contain marijuana. Minutes later a police patrol arrived in the area and detained the man.

Oaxaca state Gov. Gabino Cue decided to recruit the officers to make his government more inclusive of people with disabilities. Soon, the 20 officers were in charge of monitoring the city’s 200 surveillance cameras day and night.

When the officers notice something suspicious, they communicate it to their interpreters who then talk to police dispatchers.

Oaxaca is the first city in Mexico to recruit officers who can’t speak or hear as part of a pilot program, said Ignacio Villalobos Carranza, spokesman for the city’s Public Safety Department.

Villabos said that since officers were hired a year ago, they have helped detain drug dealers and thieves, and that the success of the program is drawing international attention.

“There have been people from England, from the Arab Emirates, from Germany, from Argentina who have approached us because they want to know how our system works,” Villalobos added.


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