Of all people, you’d think police officers would know what sign language is when they see it. But these California cops apparently didn’t, and now they’re facing one hell of a lawsuit.
Jonathan Meister is suing after four police officers in Hawthorne, California repeatedly Tased him and beat the hell out of him because they misinterpreted sign language as an act of aggression.
In February, Meister had been loading boxes of winter clothes and a snowboard that belonged to him at a friend’s house when a neighbor mistook him for a robber and called police. When officers Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow, and Mark Hultgren arrived on the scene, they encountered Meister and ordered him to stop. The only problem is that Meister is deaf and couldn’t hear the officers so he couldn’t obey their commands.
After grabbing his hand, a startled Meister began communicating the only way he can- by using sign language. As he desperately tried to make them understand him, the cops decided that Meister was trying to resist and assault them. So they jumped him, took him to ground, shot him twice with a Taser and punched and kicked the crap of him until they finally arrested him and charged him with assault.
According to the lawsuit, officers “shot Taser darts into Mr. Meister, administered a number of painful electric shocks, struck him with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground.”
This incident occurred in substantial part because the HPD [Hawthorne Police Department] does not provide its officers the training and resources to serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including those who communicate primarily through American Sign Language.
Meister is seeking damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Apparently, if you’re deaf, using sign language to communicate with police is a surefire way to ignite an incident of police brutality now. Let’s just hope most police officers aren’t as moronic as these four are and that they pay dearly for their huge error in judgment.