Deaf, police to discuss hiring interpreters
Members of the local deaf community are requesting that the Wichita Police Department budget money to hire state-certified sign language interpreters.
The Police Department's recent recruiting effort for volunteer interpreters who may or may not be certified upset members of the deaf community.
"Volunteers usually are not certified interpreters or state-qualified interpreters," said Shane Dundas, chairman of the community relations committee for the Wichita Association of the Deaf. "There must be certified, qualified interpreters."
Police officials and advocates for the deaf will meet this weekend to air grievances and find common ground as the Police Department tries to address its need for interpreters.
"This is a good-faith effort to enhance and improve our ability to communicate with them," said Wichita police Capt. Darren Moore, training bureau commander.
Jeanne Goodvin, the city's Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, and Wichita City Council member Carl Brewer are also expected to attend.
The Police Department has one officer who qualifies as a sign language interpreter, according to department standards.
Moore said the Police Department has previously hired translators for court sessions or when conducting interviews.
"We're never going to jeopardize a serious investigation based on the qualifications of an interpreter," he said.
The department would use volunteer interpreters for routine traffic stops, for example. The Police Department has not finalized policies concerning volunteer interpreters.
The deaf community wants the department to budget $5,000 for certified interpreters to perform such services.
"I think the problem is, with a volunteer, they have no way to gauge their competency," said Debbie McCann, co-owner of Sign Language Interpreting Services, a Wichita company founded in 2000.
The company used to interpret for the Police Department but "payment became an issue," McCann said.
The organization, which has about 15 state-certified interpreters, generally charges $32.50 per hour, and more for evenings and weekends, according to McCann.
By comparison, Interpreting Solutions LLC in the Kansas City metro area charges a flat rate of $35 per hour with a two-hour minimum for its certified interpreting services.
A Kansas statute requires the Topeka-based Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to certify or register all interpreters for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.
"If you were vacationing in China and you needed an emergency surgery to remove your appendix, would you be comfortable with a volunteer doctor or a doctor who passed the medical exams and completed his or her residency?" said commission executive director Rebecca Rosenthal.
The organization strongly recommends that civic and governmental agencies hire certified interpreters to ensure effective communication and protect the safety of all those involved, Rosenthal said.
Members of the deaf community and the police department said they are looking forward to a productive meeting.
"We are trying to be more sensitive to their needs," Moore said.
IF YOU GO
What: Members of Wichita's deaf community will meet with city and police officials to discuss interpreters.
Where: Wichita Association of the Deaf, 1646 E. Central
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
How much: Free
© 2005 The Witchita Eagle
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