AUSTIN (KXAN) — Relationships between police and the community is an ongoing work in progress in Austin, and the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) wants to hear from the public about how officers interact with people with disabilities.

“It’s just really important that we can continue to talk about it,” said Celia Hughes, who’s on the planning committee for OPO’s Town Hall on June 25.

According to a news release from OPO about the event, it “will focus on the experiences community members living with disabilities have with law enforcement and how to create better engagement between law enforcement and this community.”

We looked through the report from last year’s town hall for people with disabilities, and the following quote from a community members stood out to us:

“There is a significant amount of distrust within the Deaf community with law
enforcement, several negative interactions were mentioned, cases where
officers were either not responsive or had to really be pushed to provide
service or support.”

In April, several members of the Deaf community were injured when a car crashed through a group of pedestrians into a food truck on Barton Springs Road. Through an interpreter, a family member of one of the deaf people who got hurt told KXAN he did not see an interpreter on scene. He said there was an officer who knew some sign language, but it was difficult to communicate.

APD has not yet been able to provide specifics about the ASL response that night, but says per department policy – interpreters are available to respond to scenes upon request.

At next week’s event, community members will have the opportunity to share experiences like this with city leaders.

“People who are blind, deaf or neuro-diverse they don’t necessarily present easily to the public that they have a disability,” said Hughes.

The town hall is from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. June 25. It’s at the Asian American Resource Center at 8401 Cameron Road. You can also register to attend the event virtually.