Deaf woman sues Rockville Centre Police Department

Alleges cops didn’t provide translator


A deaf woman is suing the Rockville Centre Police Department for allegedly failing to give her a sign language translator when she was arrested for drunk driving.

Uniondale resident Trista McAllister, who is deaf and communicates in American Sign Language, had dropped off a friend at the Rockville Centre train station on Oct. 15, 2015, at 3 a.m. According to the lawsuit, she was then pulled over by an RVCPD officer for transferring lanes without signaling. McAllister tried to indicate that she is deaf, but the officer communicated to her with “vague gestures,” according to the suit, and conducted sobriety tests.

McAllister said she tried communicating with the officer, and wrote, “I need an interpreter.” He then handcuffed McAllister and took her to police headquarters.

“Instead of providing Ms. McAllister with an ASL interpreter, or any other form of accommodation, the RCPD held her at the precinct for hours, with her hands cuffed behind her back,” says the lawsuit. The police held McAllister all night and brought her to court the next morning. There, police tried to communicate with her via lip reading, which the lawsuit claims is not an effective means of communication for deaf people.

Afterwards, McAllister was placed in a holding cell for hours, her suit indicates. She was later provided with an attorney, who later brought in an ASL interpreter. McAllister was then able to get her glasses back, which had been taken from her at the police station, she said.

“Ms. McAllister alleges that the RCPD discriminated against her and failed to accommodate her disability, leading to the deprivation of the right to understand the basis for her arrest,” wrote her attorneys, Eisenberg & Baum. “This traumatic experience caused Ms. McAllister humiliation, frustration, embarrassment and fear.”

McAllister filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Aug. 4, alleging that the police department had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and the RVCPD’s full compliance with the ADA.

The Rockville Centre Police Department would not comment on ongoing litigation.