A Staten Island judge has ruled in favor of a deaf woman who is suing the NYPD for failing to accommodate her special needs during an arrest in 2012—the woman alleges that cops illegally arrested and detained her for 24 hours without allotting her an interpreter in 2011.
According to court documents, Diana Williams was arrested along with her husband on September 11, 2011 after allegedly getting involved in a dispute with a tenant in her Staten Island home. The officer who arrested her claimed he was able to communicate with Williams at the time, even though she is deaf and cannot speak—Williams, however, testified in court that the officer did not attempt to communicate with her and did not provide her with an American Sign Language interpreter even though she repeatedly tried to request one. "I have never been so terrified in my life,” Williams told the Daily News in May.
Court documents state that Williams was then held overnight, and "at no time did the NYPD provide her with an ASL interpreter or any other form of auxiliary aid to inform her why she was under arrest or how long she would be held in police custody." She was released the following day and not charged with any crime.
Judge Valerie Caproni ruled this week that Williams can proceed with the suit, which was first filed in 2011 but met with resistance by the city, which claimed the NYPD doesn't have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act until the person being arrested is transported to a stationhouse.
"There is no dispute that Plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability or that the City is a public entity and is subject to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act," Caproni wrote in her ruling, adding. "It would be preposterous to believe that given the diversity of the population in the City of New York, the NYPD did not know full well that its officers would encounter persons with hearing impairments in connection with protecting and defending the City and that some of those people would need accommodation in order to interact with the police."
The case is now able to proceed.