Watch a NY1 segment on Angel Familia '22, a NYPD liaison to the deaf community. Angel, whose parents are deaf, learned sign language as his first language.
Growing up in the South Bronx, Familia witnessed crime and poverty. “My interactions with police officers weren’t always great, but I was fascinated by police officers,” he explains. In high school, Familia met Alden Foster, NYPD Director of Youth Services and Community Engagement and Adjunct John Jay Adjunct Professor. “Director Foster explained that knowing sign language was a talent—a very scarce but needed talent,” says Familia. “I had a passion for the police department and serving the deaf community. I wanted to be the bridge to the deaf community.”
Today, Familia works with the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, engaging with the deaf community across the city. “I have the opportunity to connect with the deaf community and let them know what resources we can offer them,” he says. “I recently interpreted for a deaf individual who was in a car accident. He was incredibly nervous. When I started to interpret, you could see the relief on his face. Having a person in uniform signing gives deaf people the reassurance they need to communicate with law enforcement.”
“Part of my job is educating hearing people and dispelling misconceptions about deaf people,” says Familia. “Hearing people tend to think that all deaf people can read lips, which isn’t true. Deaf people have jobs. Deaf people drive. I want to open up their world. I want deaf people and hard-of-hearing people to go back to their communities and say, ‘Somebody in the police department helped me.’”