Aiken Public Safety officers are trained to better help the deaf and hard of hearing

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)– This cell phone video shows a portion of the pursuit that ended with a North Carolina
state trooper shooting and killing an unarmed deaf driver, 29 year-old Daniel Harris last August.

Police said they were trying to pull Harris over for speeding, and he didn’t stop until he got to his home and got out of his car, starting the confrontation.

This incident has many wondering: Are police properly trained to deal with the deaf and hard of hearing?

Aiken Public Safety Officers are taking steps to ensure something similar doesn’t happen on their watch.

“When we see other agencies, whether they’re law enforcement or fire who are challenged, we take note and make sure we are better prepared,” Lieutenant J.D. Mahoney said.

David Bitters, a deaf and hearing impaired teacher, led the class for the officers.

Four states are now using communication cards to help communicate with the deaf and hearing impaired– Wisconsin, California, Michigan and now South Carolina. The deaf and hard of hearing also have access to these cards.

“The old fashion police is ‘order and do’. Now it’s about communication. It’s about relating to the people,” Bitters explained.

And that is exactly what Bitters trains officers to do. He says this training is simply a wrench in a police tool belt.

Nine percent of the South Carolina population is deaf.

Lieutenant Mahoney has a message for them: “We want to engage with you. We want to invite you to public safety so that we can better serve you.”

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