A deaf mother of two says an encounter with police could have ended tragically had it not been for her twin daughters’ ability to speak for her.
Andrea “Dre” Hollingsworth says she was confused when Las Vegas police officers pulled her and her 11-year-old daughters over on Wednesday, April 7. Not knowing how the encounter would play out, Hollingsworth began a Facebook live stream on her phone.
In the recording, an officer is standing at the open driver’s-side door saying, “Let’s go. You’re recording; I’m recording too.” Hollingsworth quickly signs what is occurring in the camera’s view while being pulled by the arm out of the vehicle.
As her children grew more uncomfortable with the situation, they questioned the officer. “Why does she have to do that?”
“I don’t know, I’m being pulled over and he is interrogating me … I am black, I am deaf. George Floyd just happened,” recalled Hollingsworth while speaking with KVVU-TV FOX 5. “The police officer pulled my arm … and I was like, ‘whoa, why?’ I have never experienced anything like that in my life.”
Standing outside the vehicle with her phone still in her hand, Hollingsworth pulled down her mask and signed more about the encounter. Unable to read the covered mouths of the officers, Hollingsworth said she attempted to show that writing or texting would help with communication.
Her daughters were also instructed to exit the vehicle. An officer then explained to the girls that their mother was under investigation.
“She’s just over here because she needs her money back from her friend,” explained one of the girls. Hollingsworth says she was owed money from her landlord after moving from her apartment. According to Fox 5, the landlord called police, ultimately leading to the encounter.
Forced to the ground, Hollingsworth was handcuffed in front of her screaming daughters.
“One of you guys needs to talk some sense into her,” an officer said to Hollingsworth’s emotionally distraught daughters.
Deaf rights lawyer Andrew Rozynski says the officers’ mishandling of efforts to communicate with Hollingsworth crossed a legal line.
“Requiring an 11-year-old to interpret in a police situation is against the Americans with Disabilities Act and there are regulations in there that expressly prohibit children from being used as interpreters,” Rozynski said.
Regarding police encounters, the ADA states in part:
- Agencies must give primary consideration to providing the aid or service requested by the person with the hearing disability.
- Agencies cannot charge the person for the communication aids or services provided.
- When interpreters are needed, agencies must provide interpreters who can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially.
“If my kids weren’t with me, then I would have died that day. My kids saved my life,” said Hollingsworth.
Police say Hollingsworth was only detained for a short period of time for failing to comply with officers’ requests during the investigation. They also issued the following 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.”
Online, people have expressed outrage over the encounter.
“It’s unbelievable that the bully cop would handcuff her behind her back, completely cutting off her means of communicating.”
“It’s disgusting behavior by the police. 😡 wth does that teach her kids!! They will never trust those that are meant to protect them.”
“The reason why I started learning ASL. It’s hard out here for the deaf, I pray for them. I’m being part of the change. #LearnASL”