Just walking down the halls of Lexington School & Center for the Deaf, it’s hard to get a word in with Officer Angel Familia.

He was signing almost every person he came into contact with.

Sign language is actually his first language.

He’s not deaf, but both of his parents are and it was 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 this first language

  • The NYPD is working with deaf and are hard-of-hearing people for the summer youth employment program

  • Familia and the NYPD Bureau for Community Affairs visited Lexington School & Center for the Deaf to tell the students about the opportunities for them in the Summer Youth Employment Program with the NYPD

  • Some of the people in the class requested for police officers to take an 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 the middleman for his parents to help them communicate.

“I was always relied on to help them with going to the car dealerships. You can imagine all these places that did not have any language access,” Familia said.

He went to CUNY’s John Jay College and has been in the NYPD for four years, still using American Sign Language and now sometimes on the job.

“When I did respond there, and he saw that I knew sign language, he was relieved,” Familia said about a car crash he responded to.

On this day, he’s responding to a needless urgent but no less important.

Showing teenagers in the deaf community there are opportunities for them with the NYPD.

Ohenewaa Atuobi Asiamah, an 11th grade student, interned in the Summer Youth Employment program for the 45th Police Precinct.

She was impressed her supervisor knew sign language.

“We were able to connect and learn more about them,” Atuobi Asiamah said.

Last year was the first year deaf students and students who are hard of hearing took part in the NYPD Summer Youth Employment program. Familia helped recruit kids then too.

“His background, his parents, just opens the doors for the police department and he is going to be the trailblazer,” Deputy Commissioner Community Affairs Bureau Mark Stewart said.

Some students would like American Sign Language training for the NYPD so more officers can communicate with them.

“As of right now you know there isn’t training for police officers when they come into the academy when they come through recruit school, but that is something we will put together for the future,” Familia said.

And if the department needs justification to make that investment, improving community relations starts with communication.

And there might be no better proof than looking at Officer Familia walk the halls of this school.