Pa. man drops police lawsuit over hearing aids

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2011 5:59 PM
Pa. man drops police lawsuit over hearing aids

A Pennsylvania man with hearing loss who aspires to a career in law enforcement has dropped his federal lawsuit against state police over guidelines that he said excluded qualified candidates who need hearing aids.

Bill Furman, of Boalsburg, said he has been accepted into a statewide sheriff's training academy through his new job with the Centre County sheriff's office, and he will be able to achieve most of the same goals he sought from the lawsuit filed in June.

The lawsuit sought a change to the rule forbidding the use of hearing aids in tests needed for certification so that Furman had the opportunity to become a municipal police officer. State police oversee the certification process for officers in Pennsylvania, but certification for sheriff's deputies is covered under a separate program.

Furman began working for the sheriff's office last fall after spending more than four years as a parking officer with the Bellefonte Police Department. He also worked as a county constable, an elected position that involves serving papers and transporting prisoners.

Furman said he decided to drop the lawsuit after receiving a good evaluation from Sheriff Denny Nau in January that allowed him to enroll in the sheriff's academy. The dismissal was finalized Tuesday in federal court.

Furman said he recently turned 40 and that he "wanted to get on with his life."

"I need to move on," Furman said Thursday. "Essentially, both (the police and sheriff's academies' certifications) are identical. I will still do the same thing, and not have to drag this out any longer."

The son of a police officer, Furman had said he dreamed of following in his father's footsteps. He has used hearing aids since he was 4.

Furman was set to go to a police training academy in 2009 when he said he was told he couldn't because he had passed an earlier hearing test with the help of hearing aids.

When Furman pressed, he was told he could proceed if he passed all tests, including the hearing test, without his hearing aids, said the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, which had filed the lawsuit for Furman.

Furman wasn't being rejected by a potential employer but was turned away from becoming eligible for the certification, his lawyer, Carol Horowitz, had said. She also pointed out that guidelines allow for the use of glasses to meet vision requirements.

The state police had declined comment, citing the pending litigation. A state police spokeswoman did not have immediate comment when contacted Friday about the end of the case.

"I think he really just made a different career choice," Horowitz said Thursday. "Lawsuits can be long and drawn out."

Furman said the main difference between the jobs of a municipal police officer and sheriff's deputy is that a deputy cannot take part in certain investigations such as a speed trap. But the deputy, who primarily works for the courts, has the power to perform a traffic stop if needed while on duty.

With more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan looking for work after coming home with hearing loss injuries, Horowitz said the issue could come up again in the near future. Furman was eager to assist others with similar predicaments.

"I would be happy to help," he said, "but for me to pursue it _ no, I'm not getting any younger."