- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A woman who is deaf has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was arrested after Shawnee County sheriff’s deputies had trouble communicating with her and the jail didn’t provide an accessible phone to contact an attorney or relatives.

Carolyn Hans claims Shawnee County and the sheriff’s office failed to provide her services required under federal law during her encounter with law enforcement, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/294OQFe) reported. The suit also contends the sheriff’s office refused to allow her to file a police report using an accessibility service, instead telling her she needed to hire an interpreter.

The lawsuit indicates Hans, who can only fully communicate through American Sign Language, likely will seek upward of $75,000.

County counselor Rich Eckert said the county is aware of the lawsuit, but declined to comment on it. The sheriff’s office general counsel, Matthew Boddington, said he hadn’t heard of the suit.

Issues arose in April 2015 when Hans called 911 several times during a domestic dispute. The lawsuit contends Hans’ interaction with deputies was stymied because of her deafness and that eventually the deputies decided to take Hans to jail.

“At no time did either deputy explain to Carolyn why they were arresting her, what law she was believed to have broken, or why there was probable cause to arrest her,” the lawsuit notes. “No sign language interpreter was brought to the scene. Ms. Hans was not shown or read her Miranda rights.”

She was released on bond the day after her arrest, and the district attorney declined to prosecute.

In September, Hans attempted to file a police report regarding alleged harassment. She called the sheriff’s office using a video relay service that would allow her to use a sign language interpreter to explain the abuse and file the report.

Shawnee County staff told Hans, according to the lawsuit, that the sheriff’s department would not accept a complaint or report over the phone, though Hans explained she needed accommodation because of her disability. A supervising officer then told Hans “she needed to hire an interpreter to communicate with him” and the officer refused to file a harassment report, the lawsuit claims.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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