Deaf motorist was awarded $93K

After all these years he is speaking out in hopes of helping other deaf victims

Deaf motorist who got $93K from St. Paul hopes police learn

from arrest incident

Doug Bahl, a deaf St. Paul man, said what happened to him at the hands of St. Paul police in 2006 was an “unnecessary tragedy,” but he also hopes it “becomes a learning experience.”

Bahl, 62, spoke Thursday, May 9, the day after the city council approved a $93,450 settlement of his federal lawsuit. As part of the settlement, St. Paul police “agreed to make some very significant changes in how it’s going to ensure effective communication with deaf people in the future,” said Rick Macpherson, an attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center who represented Bahl.

When an officer pulled Bahl over for a traffic violation more than six years ago, the officer “knew Mr. Bahl was deaf, but he thought it would work to just use gestures and use a loud voice to communicate with Mr. Bahl,” Macpherson said, speaking with Bahl at a news conference.

Bahl asked the officer to communicate with him in writing, but the officer sprayed him with a chemical irritant, dragged him out of his car and beat him, Macpherson said.

“The St. Paul police officer reported that Mr. Bahl had attacked him, but in fact when he tried to tell that story to a jury, the jury did not believe him,” Macpherson said. “They believed Mr. Bahl’s version of the events.”

A jury convicted Bahl of misdemeanor obstructing legal process but acquitted him of the more serious charge of obstructing legal process with force.

In Bahl’s civil lawsuit, the city denied liability and Bahl’s allegations but agreed to settle “given the costs and uncertainties of future litigation,” the city attorney said this week.

St. Paul police are updating their policies as a result of the settlement.

When a police investigator came to talk to Bahl after his arrest, Bahl requested an American Sign Language interpreter, Macpherson said. The investigator left and never returned, the attorney said.

One policy change as a result of the settlement: St. Paul police “will no longer refuse to interview or provide services to deaf people because they ask for an interpreter,” Macpherson said. “They will provide interpreters necessary for effective communication.”

All officers will be trained in how to communicate with deaf people in street encounters when there is no interpreter, Macpherson said.

Bahl, speaking Thursday through an American Sign Language interpreter, said there are about 28 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the U.S., and tens of thousands of them live in the Twin Cities area.

“My hope is that not one of them ever has to experience what I did, simply because they have a hearing loss or use American Sign Language in order to communicate,” said Bahl, who is an ASL instructor at St. Paul College and a board member of the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens.

Bahl was held in the Ramsey County Jail for three days. He said the county didn’t provide him with an interpreter, a TTY (a device that lets deaf people use the phone by typing messages) or any other way to communicate to friends and family about where he was.

He also sued Ramsey County, which settled its part of the suit in 2011 for $230,000, agreeing to change procedures at the jail.

As a result of policy changes at the jail and with police, Bahl said he’s “confident that our deaf community will no longer have to face communication barriers when interacting with law enforcement personnel. I am grateful to be an American deaf citizen in a country where justice can be sought and where equal rights for all really does exist.”


Why should it take for a deaf person to be abused to for proper communications with the deaf?!? Agreement that it will never happen again does not compensate for what happened!!! Once abused, there is no way t take it back. I am sure he has suffered all this time and that his duress will continue. There are 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people in this country and no excuse for this-NONE!!! Totally unacceptable and still happening…imagine that!!! This makes me sick!!!-It took how long for them to settle with him?!? There’s no excuse for this!!!

Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinion of others -B

~ by topcatsroar on May 11, 2013.

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