12,000 Deaf New Yorkers to Get NYPD-Issued Cards to Help Communicate With Cops

What to Know

  • The NYPD is mailing 12,000 cards to deaf New Yorkers that will allow them to communicate with officers if they're pulled over
  • The special cards allow a hearing-impaired driver to tell an officer, 'I am deaf or hard of hearing"
  • The NYPD says it will improve two-way communication

NYPD Sgt. Andrea Cruz still gets emotional thinking about her mother, a domestic violence survivor whose struggle inspired Cruz to become a cop.

Cruz's mother came to Brooklyn from Mexico at age 18 and, years later, called police when her husband beat her -- but couldn't tell them in English what happened. 

"She wanted to express what happened to her, those bruises that she had," said Cruz.

Cruz wanted to help New Yorkers understand police. So not only did she become a Spanish language interpreter, she took classes in American Sign Language and convinced department bosses to approve special cards that allow a hearing-impaired driver to tell an officer, "I am deaf or hard of hearing." 

The idea is that an officer approaches a car, and a hearing-impaired driver can point to the card on the visor. Nearly 12,000 of the cards are getting mailed to deaf New Yorkers this week. 

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman said the cards improve two-way communication. The hearing-impaired can point and say, "'Please help me understand you. Don't shine your flashlight in my eyes.'"

And the officer can respond by pointing to symbols: "'You were on your cellphone,' or 'Looks to me like you've been drinking,' or 'You weren't wearing your seatbelt,'" according to Herman. 

Cruz is convinced the cards will help, the way she did when, as a child, she translated her mom's anguished fears to the NYPD. 

"I still remember as an eight-year-old, that sense of relief when the cops came," she recalled.

The Spanish-to-English hurdle made her understand the switch from spoken words to sign, when deaf acquaintances would ask her, over and over, "How do you communicate? If I'm deaf, how do I communicate with cops?"

The NYPD is convinced the answer is in the cards. 

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