Human rights complaint against Oxford police delayed again

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OXFORD — A Maine Human Rights Commission meeting to discuss a complaint against the Oxford Police Department was again tabled Monday when the commission couldn’t find an American Sign Language interpreter.

This is the second time the commission has tabled discussion of a complaint by David Brown of Poland, who alleges Oxford police discriminated against him because he’s deaf.

Brown filed two complaints with the commission, alleging the Oxford Police Department and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department discriminated against him by not providing an American Sign Language interpreter for him at the scene of a fatal accident on Aug. 26, 2009.

According to police, Brown’s then 17-year-old daughter, Kristen Brown, turned onto Route 26 from the parking lot of Oxford Plains Speedway in a pickup truck that was hauling a trailer. She did not see a motorcycle being driven by Richard Lothrop, 58, of Auburn when she pulled out, but when he saw her he locked up his brakes and started fishtailing.

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Brown said he asked for an interpreter at the scene so he could understand what police were saying to his daughter about the circumstances of the accident. The Browns say police told them they didn’t know how to call for an interpreter and kept asking Kristen Brown questions.

Oxford police said they didn’t deny a request for an interpreter, and that Kristen Brown was signing the conversation to her father while she spoke to police. They said they quickly realized there was no plan to file criminal charges.

Commission staff ruled that the complaint against the Oxford police had merit, but the one against the sheriff’s office did not.

The commission was set to meet Monday in Augusta to take up the investigators’  recommendation that the department and Brown pursue conciliation under state law before the family seeks civil action in Superior Court.

The case has been postponed until the June 27 meeting of the Maine Human Rights Commission.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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