DAPHNE, Ala. (WKRG) — It’s a new year to thank first responders with our Smiles Behind the Shield Award. For the first month of the year, WKRG is honoring two Daphne Police Officers who are working on some new skills to be able to communicate with more of the community.

Officer Christina Brazell said, “She can let them know in case she is out of uniform that she is a police officer.”

According to Rhode Island’s Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a state agency for the National Association of the Deaf, American sign language is the third most commonly used language in the United States. It comes right after English and Spanish.

Brazell said, “It’s something that I grew up always wanting to learn, but never really had the opportunity.”

Christina Brazell and Jessica Orso told WKRG News 5 they signed up for American Sign Language classes after their department’s chief brought up the idea.

“I went from communications to code enforcement,” Brazell said. “I’m on the road, I’m interacting with more people. I thought it’d be really cool to find out if we had that type [of] community or people who could only speak ASL in our city or our community that way I could interact with them.”

She continued, “There’s other words and there’s different verbiage for different questions, so it’s not just simple English language. It’s a little bit different, so that’s what we’re having to adapt to.”

The officers showed our WKRG News 5 cameras some examples of the signs they learned as well as how it can help them while on the job.

“This means help, so you can ask someone ‘do you need help’,” said Brazell.

She continued, “She can let them know what her name is and she can ask them what their name is by saying, ‘what’s your name?'”

The officers know a lot more than just the few signs they showed our cameras. According to the officers, at the end of their class, they went to a silent dinner where they could only sign to communicate.

Orso said, “We had to introduce ourselves, talk with other(s) in the deaf community, and it was just, it was amazing.”

Their efforts to connect with more community members is why we award Daphne Police Officers Christina Brazelle and Jessica Orso our Smiles Behind the Shield Award.

Learn more about the classes being taken by the officers HERE.