Just walking down the halls of the Lexington School & Center for the Deaf, it’s hard to get a word in with Officer Angel Familia.
He signed almost every person he came in contact with.
Sign language is actually his first language.
He’s not deaf, but both his parents are, and that’s all he knew until he went to school.
What you need to know
- Officer Angel Familia grew up with deaf parents and says American Sign Language was that first language
- The NYPD works with the deaf and hard of hearing for the summer youth employment program
- Familia and the NYPD Bureau of Community Affairs visited the Lexington School & Center for the Deaf to tell students about the opportunities available to them in the Summer Youth Employment Program with the NYPD
- Some of the people in the class called for police officers to take American Sign Language training
“I didn’t understand the difference between the deaf community and the general public until I went to school. It was more of a culture shock,” Officer Familia said.
He is in the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau and a liaison with the disability community.
Once he understood the hearing world, he became an intermediary for his parents to help them communicate.
“I’ve always depended on helping them go to the car dealerships. You can imagine all these places that had no language access,” Familia said.
He attended CUNY’s John Jay College and has been with the NYPD for four years, still using American Sign Language and now sometimes on the job.
“When I responded there and he saw that I knew sign language, he was relieved,” Familia said of a car accident he responded to.
On this day, he responds to an unnecessary urgency, but no less important.
Showing teenagers in the deaf community that there are opportunities for them with the NYPD.
Ohenewaa Atuobi Asiamah, an 11th grade student, was an intern in the Summer Youth Employment Program for the 45th Police District.
She was impressed that her tutor knew sign language.
“We were able to connect and learn more about them,” said Atuobi Asiamah.
Last year was the first year deaf and hard of hearing students participated in the NYPD Summer Youth Employment program. Familia also helped recruit children back then.
“His background, his parents, just open the doors for the police department and he’s going to be a trailblazer,” Deputy Community Affairs Commissioner Mark Stewart said.
Some students would like American Sign Language training for the NYPD so more officers can communicate with them.
“Right now, you know there’s no training for police officers when they come into the academy, when they come through recruit school, but that’s something we want to put together for the future,” Familia said.
And if the department needs justification for making this investment, improving community relations starts with communication.
And there may be no better proof than looking at Officer Familia walking around this school.