"Sign language police box" in Tokyo celebrates 20th anniversary

Fujikawa Chieko, a master patrol officer, tells, "Persons with hearing loss are always welcome to  drop in at my police box," using a sign for "Greetings."
(photo: http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/)

June 25, 2014

In Tokyo, there are six police boxes that a policeman can responds by sign language. It had been 20 years this year since the Metropolitan Police Department installed the "sign language police box."

The sign language police box in which a female policeman works was also started in May. The signboard of a "sign language police box" is set to the entrance of the Nogata 1-chome police box near the 7th Circular Road in Nakano-ku, Tokyo.

A master patrol officer Fujikawa Chieko (藤川千枝子), 24, tells with a smile, "I want a person with hearing loss to drop in here without reserve," showing the her original work for conversation with pointing an illustration, and the file of the paper for writing.

Fujikawa, fluent in sign language because of her Deaf parents, passed the second level of the sign language proficiency measurement of the Metropolitan Police Department in April. This level shows one can utilize sign language at work related to the police, such as reception of an incident report, as well as daily conversation.

The Metropolitan Police Department is carrying out the license examination since the 1990s. From 2001, the training class of sign language is also provided twice per year. Meanwhile about 300 policemen passed the second level proficiency test, about 70 passed the first level qualified for using sign language in the police investigation, etc.

The Nogata police station has an original measure. Fujikawa took the lead, developing teaching materials at her own expense. Before morning office hours, etc., her coworkers and the younger officers are studying sign language with the materials.

The community administration division in the Metropolitan Police Department urges the measure, stating, "Many people will gather here for the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Paralympics in 2020. The policemen who use sign language can be increased in number, and more sign language police boxes should be spread."

There was a case where the non-compulsory inspection was performed in Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture in July, 2011 while the Deaf woman involved in the traffic accident had not got a policeman to listen in spite of her repeated request for dispatch of a sign language interpreter.

It was concluded that the policeman's lack of understanding invited that the accident which should have been resulted as an injury or death was processed only as a damage accident temporarily.

The Japanese Federation of the Deaf based in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo requested the National Police Agency in written form in September, 2011 to meet the needs of the Deaf appropriately in a traffic accident, application procedure, etc. 

The Nakahara police station requested cooperation from the Kawasaki Information and Culture Center in response to this problem. As part of training, the original measure for the newly appointed policemen is advancing. They attend the short course of easy sign language, communication through writing, etc. taught by the Center staff since the 2011 fiscal year.  From the 2013 fiscal year, the trainee of the police academy who is given training in the police station has also received the short course.

The person in charge of the police station explains the aim, "Our effort may not be enough for a policeman to respond in sign language, but more awareness of the Deaf community will help us deal with them better."

The 39-aged Deaf woman in Tokyo who tackles a plan to start a sign-language interpreting enterprise, etc. says, "I want them to also advance an effectual measure, such as taking the demonstration on how to meet the needs of a Deaf person, etc. as a lesson in the police academy." 


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