LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A deaf woman was handcuffed in North Las Vegas in front of her children as the girls were asked to interpret for police. Video of the incident is causing outrage in the deaf community nationwide.
Andrea "Dre" Hollingsworth spoke exclusively with FOX5. She started livestreaming on Facebook during her interaction with North Las Vegas Police last Wednesday.
The officers were wearing face masks. Since Hollingsworth is deaf and could not read their lips, she could not understand them.
FOX5 spoke to her over Zoom with a local sign language interpreter, Lucy Venghaus.
“I don’t know, I’m being pulled over and he is interrogating me … I am black, I am deaf, George Floyd just happened,” Hollingsworth recalled as the encounter first started. “The police officer pulled my arm … and I was like, 'whoa, why?' I have never experienced anything like that in my life,” Hollingsworth said.
In the video, the officer can be heard instructing her 11-year-old twin daughters to also get out of the car.
“I will have you come with me so you can talk,” the officer says. Hollingsworth couldn’t communicate with the officer.
“I’m saying, 'Look at this. We need to text, we need to write,' and he just kept on talking,” Hollingsworth recalled.
The officer then tells the girls he is investigating their mom. Hollingsworth said she was in the area near Decatur Boulevard and Ann Road to get rent money back after moving out early, but the landlord called police.
“She is just here because she needs her money back from her friend,” one of the 11-year-olds tells the officer on the video.
Hollingsworth said she was forced to sit on the curb with the officer pushing her to sit down. Her daughters are heard screaming as she is put in handcuffs. Hollingsworth could no longer sign at that point and dropped her phone.
“Tell her to put her hands behind her back,” an officer is recorded saying to the 11-year-olds. “One of you guys need to talk some sense into her,” the officer said minutes later.
Andrew Rozynski is a deaf rights lawyer with Eisenberg & Baum in New York, one of the top firms in the country.
“Requiring an 11-year-old to interpret in a police situation is against the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are regulations in there that expressly prohibit children from being used as interpreters,” Rozynski said.
Rozynski argues the kids were put in a position they shouldn’t have been.
Many police departments have 24-hour interpreter services for multiple languages, including sign language.
“There are services out there such as video relay, in which someone can bring up an interpreter on an iPhone or iPad,” Rozynski explained.
“I never thought this would happen to me because I am not a criminal,” Hollingsworth said. Hollingsworth believes her daughters were traumatized.
“My kids are afraid because of all the incidents that have been happening recently. They are raised Black in this community, so when they see a police officer, they are also on high alert,” Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth is demanding change so what happened to her will not happen to anyone else.
“I really want all of Las Vegas police to change, because it is really scary how deaf people are treated. If my kids weren’t with me, then I would have died that day. My kids saved my life,” Hollingsworth said.
NLVPD said they have investigated the circumstances, writing Hollingsworth “initially refused to comply with requests and was briefly detained until police completed their investigation.”
FOX5 asked for additional clarification about their policy when dealing with deaf and hard of hearing people during traffic stops or searches. The department sent their entire 198-page department policy manual and this statement:
This department will make every effort to see that its employees communicate effectively with people who have identified themselves as deaf or hard of hearing.