'Silent Angel' Squad Joins City Police Force

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

The latest addition to the Oaxaca city police force is a group of a dozen police officers who can't hear or speak.


Nicknamed the "silent angels," this squad has been recently attracting international attention to this Mexican city.

"We've had people from London and the United Arab Emirates contact us, to ask about this program, because they also want to implement it," an official from Oaxaca's Department for Security recently told the AP.


"The [deaf cops] have the ability to notice situations, that a person without hearing disabilities might not notice," said Cynthia Zepeda, Oaxaca's director of Emergency Services.

The Silent Angels don't actually patrol the streets of this southern Mexican city.

Instead, they sit in a control room with dozens of screens, where they monitor images generated by some 200 security cameras that the city government has placed around town. When members of the Angels squad see something suspicious — say, a drug dealer trying to peddle his merchandise on a street corner — they communicate in sign language with an interpreter, who reaches out to police officers on the ground.

Oaxacan officials claim these deaf cops are better at monitoring security camera footage than cops who can hear, because "the silent angels" don't get as easily distracted. They also claim that in some situations, deaf cops can decipher conversations that criminal suspects are having with each other by simply reading their lips.


"These people compensate [for their lack of hearing] with a very acute sense of vision," Oaxaca's Secretary for Public Security told the BBC."They've helped us to detect people who are handing out bribes, and also those who are consuming drugs [in public]."

Some scientific studies suggest that people who've been deaf from a young age have better peripheral vision than those who can hear. This can come in handy if you're sitting in a control room, where you have to monitor a dozen screens at the same time.


Want to see more? Check out this AP video, of the silent angels initiative.


Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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