A Halton police officer is being criticized for refusing communication with a deaf suspect arrested for theft in Burlington.
The video, which has been viewed over 230,000 times since being posted to social media on Tuesday, shows a male suspect gesturing a “writing on paper” motion and the officer refusing to explain in writing why he was under arrest.
“I am not going to write it for you right now,” an officer said to the man while verbally asking him to put his hands behind his back. A second officer can then be seen arriving before the two officers arrest the man.
The officer put the suspect on the ground and handcuffed him, then put him in the back of a police cruiser.
Police were responding to reports of theft involving over the counter medicines at a pharmacy.
The Ontario Association of the Deaf is among many speaking out on the video, and calls for increased training for police officers.
“I know that crimes under the law have to be dealt with and there are laws to follow with regards to every arrest, and I know police have protocols – but this time, the process was violated,” says the association’s Executive Director, Donald Prong, to Global News.
“What police did escalated the situation and this gentleman was robbed of his basic human rights… I strongly believe if the police had appropriate training – ongoing basic training – with regards to how to deal with deaf individuals, it would not be an issue,” he said.
In a statement, Halton police said the male suspect was known to police and officers had previously communicated with him without the use of sign language.
“The arrest was made without injury to the male or police and adhered to officer safety protocols. Once in custody the male was provided with an opportunity to communicate with an officer with American Sign Language to explain the situation prior to the arrival of an ASL certificated interpreter.”
– With files from Nick Westoll, Global News.