A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court against Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr over alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Last week three plaintiffs joined in the suit with original plaintiffs are Timothy Siaki and his fiancée, Kimberlee Moore, along with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, an advocacy group. The new plaintiffs are Michaelee Owen, who is deaf, and his guardian, Jeanine Roybal.
The suit claims that Siaki was held in the Adams County jail for 25 days without access to a sign-language interpreter and other devices for the deaf to communicate. Owen's circumstances were similar; he was picked up for a traffic violation and put in the Adams County jail. He was also denied any access to communication devices and was not able to call Roybal — his aunt and legal guardian.
The Adams County Sheriff's Office denied the allegations in the original suit. In a statement released in November, the Sheriff's Office said Siaki communicated in written English with the jail staff after his arrest. Also, the next business day after his arrest, Siaki was advised of the charges against him through a sign-language interpreter supplied through the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing — a state agency that provides interpreters.
The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition said it recently settled a similar case against the Lakewood Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The group believes that throughout Colorado, sheriffs are breaking the law by failing to have policies or procedures for providing sign-language interpreters for deaf persons.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the ADA provides that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to the same services law enforcement provides to anyone else. They may not be excluded or segregated from services, be denied services, or otherwise be treated differently than other people. Law enforcement agencies must make efforts to ensure that their personnel communicate effectively with people whose disability affects hearing. This applies to both sworn and civilian personnel. The ADA requires that an interpreter be provided in lengthy or complex transactions – such as interviewing a victim, witness, suspect, or arrestee – if the person being interviewed normally relies on sign language or speech reading to understand what others are saying.