People with disabilities already face various social and economic challenges whether their disability is physical, psychological, or intellectual. One challenge people with disabilities face that ends up regularly overlooked? Discrimination by police.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, almost half of the people who die in a police encounter have some kind of disability. The American Civil Liberties Union backs this up by reporting that hundreds of Americans with disabilities die each year at the hands of police and many more end up seriously injured. So why does it seem like people with disabilities are being disproportionately discriminated against by law enforcement?
The Disconnect Between Police Officers and People with Disabilities
When someone calls the police about a person in crisis and the person in crisis does not immediately follow the demands of the police, police may shout and draw their weapons. Rather than de-escalate the situation, the police may use mace, a taser, or excessive force against the person in crisis. This response can intensify the situation, causing the individual to react in a panic—many times by grabbing a weapon to defend themselves, resulting in a person with disability’s injury or untimely death by the officers.
Police officers may often resort to violence because of their training. In many communities, law enforcement agencies are attempting to resolve this issue by providing de-escalation training for these encounters. Some de-escalation methods that agencies are implementing include:
- Calm communication
- Collaboration with mental health specialists
- Containment of the individual from a distance
However, many police departments still don’t offer specialized training on how to communicate with persons with disabilities, and even when they do, the training isn’t always properly implemented.
Does the ADA Grant Protections from Law Enforcement?
A person is considered to have a disability if they have a mental or physical impairment that dramatically restricts one or more major life activities. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal civil rights law meant to protect people with disabilities against discrimination and guarantee equal opportunities to all aspects of society, including within the criminal justice system.
With that being said, according to the US Department of Justice, police officers are within their right to respond appropriately to actual threats to their health or safety, regardless of whether the individual’s actions are a result of their disability. It is important, however, for officers to be able to distinguish between behavior that poses an actual risk versus behavior that does not.
Contact an Experienced Police Misconduct Attorney in Michigan
If you or someone you love has been a victim of discrimination by police due to a disability, don’t wait to contact a lawyer. Contact Michigan Legal Center and speak with an attorney that specializes in police misconduct and brutality.
With over 20 years of practice fighting on behalf of Michigan residents, we’ll do everything possible to ensure justice is served to the responsible party. Give us a call and speak with one of our knowledgeable experts at 1-800-961-8447 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential legal consultation today.