Communication for Police Stops: We the Deaf People's National Campaign

By Mary Pat Luetke-Stahlman

We the Deaf People (WTDP) recently announced that they have released a new product for the community to utilize for their feared “stops” by law enforcement officers. The product is called a “Yellow Shield,” which is a bright yellow envelope with written instructions and photographs on both sides to assist with communication between the driver and an officer. While there are many other states that already have these “visor cards,” WTDP has launched a national campaign to support safe communication with police officers.

Being pulled over by police officers is very scary for people in the Deaf community because of the lack of ability to communicate with an officer, unless they’re face to face. Often officers have demonstrated impatience for those that don’t cooperate. If an officer does not walk up to the window and attempt to communicate with the individual in the vehicle (as they often use megaphones or yell for the person to get out of the car), it can lead to a deadly stop.

In comparison with what’s already out there to the newly coined “Yellow Shield” by WTDP, The Deaf Report discovered that there are a number of states that offer “visor cards” for the community. The ones that were comparable included Michigan, Kentucky, Virginia, and Connecticut. All of these states had “visors” for their residents and offer to send them out free of charge to those who asked for them.

There is another national level campaign called “Pullover Pal,” which was invented by Ronnie Fulcher after a very stressful experience with being pulled over by the police. Fulcher charges 5 dollars for his place cards, while WTDP charges 2 dollars for their “Yellow Shield”.

WTDP's effort to launch a national campaign to assist with communication during stops by the police raises questions. A few individuals inquired as to whether WTDP consulted with the National Black Deaf Advocates and any other Black Deaf-led organizations on the concept due to high levels of police brutality within the Black [and Brown] communities. This in itself alone indicates that Black, Indigenous and other Deaf people of color are more likely to be a target. Another question is, why are there “visors” and “placement cards” but no way for an officer to know the driver is deaf from the driver’s or passenger’s seat in the law enforcement vehicle?

The Deaf Report contacted We the Deaf People to inquire further about concerns of charging for distribution and their response was, "At this point in time We the Deaf People decline to provide a comment or press release to The Deaf Report.”

Samantha PoteetComment