New York — The New York Times is reporting that two former police officers with hearing aids have filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the New York Police Department (NYPD). The officers were forced to retire because of their hearing aids.
The article states that new officers with diagnosed hearing loss are not allowed to join the NYPD, but that existing officers who were diagnosed with hearing loss could wear a hearing aid, although this policy was informal. In at least two cases, the NYPD even reimbursed the officers for the hearing aids.
In late 2009, according to the Times article, the NYPD began to rigorously enforce its ban on hearing aids. The policy forced some officers to retire and other officers with hearing aids to remove their hearing aids before going on duty,
Former officers Daniel Carione, 44, and Jim Phillips, 40, have filed complaints with the EEOC, saying that the NYPD policy will deter officers from reporting their hearing loss and getting treatment.
Furthermore, the officers claim that the NYPD’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of policy may create a danger for existing officers with hearing loss, since they may not be able to hear commands or radio calls accurately without a hearing aid.
Many large cities accommodate both new recruits as well as existing police officers who have hearing aids. For example, the San Diego Police Department only requires that officers wear approved hearing aids while on duty and be pre-approved by an audiologist with a sound field test.
Paul J. Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman, said in the Times that hearing aids were unreliable and could be knocked away by a criminal. The officers countered that eye glasses could also be knocked away, but were nevertheless allowed.
According to Americans for Effective Law Enforcement Law Library of case summaries, there have been numerous similar cases in various police and fire departments. Some cases were settled in favor of the various city departments, while others sided with the police officers.