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Communication between law enforcement officers and members of the Deaf community remains an important topic internationally. Robert Skinner, a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, Scotland), has launched a website that will share information related to his research on interpreted interactions between the police and Deaf people. A particular interest of Skinner’s is the use of video-mediated interpreting during police encounters. It is hoped that the project will help to distinguish which types of interactions between members of law enforcement and Deaf people can be sufficiently achieved via video technology from those which demand face-to-face interpretation.

Skinner is a qualified BSL/English interpreter with a diverse background. If he seems familiar, you may recognize him from the BBC News. He has extensive research experience in multiple disciplines. From Skinner’s website:

“The objectives of the project are to produce recommendations for Police Scotland policy relating to when and how to make use of video-mediated interpreting with deaf BSL users; the technological set-up required to meet the needs of Police Scotland to ensure that deaf BSL users have appropriate access (which can benefit SignVideo and other video interpreting service providers); sign language interpreter training aimed at working in legal settings and video interpreting contexts.”

The high stakes of interactions between Deaf people and members of law enforcement were highlighted in the 2012 production of Police Deaf Near Far (TerpTheatre and Oakland University). In the production, a lack of communication leads to a wrongful death and tragic consequences for all involved. The practical implications of Skinner’s research are profound: They might just save lives.

To follow Robert Skinner’s research at Heriot-Watt University, see his website, Proximity Interpreting (proximityinterpreting.com). To see an archive of posts about Police Deaf Near Far, click HERE. Check out the PDNF trailer, below.

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