Imagine a serial killer has been stalking the streets of your town for nearly two months. One day you find out the police have an important announcement to make. You turn on the television only to find out you can’t understand what they’re saying. You catch a word here and there, but the rest is total gibberish. Did they catch the killer? Is he in your house? What’s going on?
Well, that was the exact situation experienced by hearing impaired people in Tampa, Florida. Police had finally arrested 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who they suspect of killing four people in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. But you wouldn’t have known that by watching the sign language interpreter.
“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing ‘Jingle Bells’,” Rachelle Settambrino, who is deaf and teaches ASL at the University of South Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times “I was disappointed, confused, upset and really want to know why the city of Tampa’s chief of police who is responsible for my safety and the safety of the entire community did not check her out.”
Settambrino said that while she could make out a few words here and there, most of what she saw was undecipherable gibberish.
To add to the confusion, Tampa Bay police say they didn’t even request a sign language interpreter for that particular news conference.
“We did not request an interpreter for a news conference on the 28th,” TPD spokesperson Janelle McGregor said, adding that the TPD is conducting an internal review to determine “who sent this particular interpreter to the news conference to provide services.”
So far the interpreter, Derlyn Roberts, has made no statement to explain her bizarre behavior.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in Florida, which unlike many states, does not require sign language interpreters to be certified through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Back in September, an interpreter who was supposed to be informing citizens about Hurricane Irma instead told viewers about bears and pizza.