Connecticut city rules that hearing aids should be no bar to police work

BRIDGEPORT, CT—Vincenzo Mirci, a 9-year military veteran, won the right to pursue his goal of becoming a police officer when, last November, the Bridgeport Civil Service Commission overturned an earlier decision by the city that he could not serve because he was unable to pass a hearing test without the hearing aid he wears in one ear.

Mirci, 35, who holds a degree in criminal justice, was looking forward to enrolling in the police academy last summer. However, then he was told that he had been disqualified because of his hearing loss. He appealed, contending that his aidable hearing loss should not prevent him from becoming a cop any more than the need for eyeglasses should preclude someone with less than 20-20 unaided vision from a career in law enforcement.

In making his case to become a police officer, the Stamford Advocate reported that Mirci told a Bridgeport city worker who wears eyeglasses, “I don’t understand how you get me out on a hearing problem. If we were in pursuit of a suspect, my aid falls out, your glasses fall off, who’s got a better shot?”

 

PRECEDENT SETTING

The Civil Service Commission’s unanimous ruling in the case not only opens the door to Mirci, but also establishes a new policy that will apply to future prospective Bridgeport police with aidable hearing loss.

Thomas Bucci
Thomas Bucci

In an interview with Hearing News Watch last week, Thomas W. Bucci, who represented Mirci in the case, noted that Bridgeport’s initial decision to reject his client was based on “arbitrary requirements on hearing loss and hearing aids” that the city had borrowed from Stamford, a nearby city in Connecticut.

Bucci, a founding member of the firm of Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, said there was no reason why Mirci should not have been hired initially since with his hearing aid his hearing met the city’s standard for police officers.

Bucci added, “I have to credit the Bridgeport City Attorney’s office for researching the issue and taking a progressive position that put them on the right side of history.”

Ironically, it is unclear if Mirci will ever join the Bridgeport Police Department. Currently he is working as a Connecticut state corrections officer, a position in which, Bucci noted, his client did not have to meet the “archaic requirements” that the city had originally imposed on him. Bucci said that his client has not yet decided if he will leave that job to become a policeman. Mirci could not be reached for comment.

 

OTHER SIMILAR CASES

As this blog has reported, there have been cases around the country in which, because they used hearing aids to address a hearing loss, active police officers have been forced to leave the force and prospective police have been prevented from serving.

In one of these cases, two veteran New York Police Department officers–Dan Carione and Jim Phillips–are seeking reinstatement to active duty. Nearly four years after the officers filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that they have been discriminated against because of their disability, the case is scheduled to go to trial in Federal Court this month.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice overruled an Illinois State Police policy that automatically excluded people who wore hearing aids from applying for the cadet corps.

Last year, Delores Facey, a Boston Police Detective filed suit after being forced into retirement because of hearing loss. She contends that with hearing aids, which she has worn for the past 15 years, she is fully capable of performing her duties. Her case has not been decided.