The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) is the law.
Reasonable accommodations are disabled people’s rights, including when interacting with the police.
San Francisco police force has training on how to interact with disabled people. This includes respect and de-escalation.
Disabled people are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than non-disabled people.
Disabled people of color are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white disabled people.
Interactions between a disabled person and a police officer can quickly escalate to tragedy if a reasonable accommodation, our right under the ADA, is not observed. This reasonable accommodation requires the police officers to request and wait for a trained person to arrive and apply the crises intervention training, bringing the situation to a peaceful solution.
Disabled people are in disadvantage when it comes to our Fourth Amendment rights. We can be searched without warrant if it is deemed that we are experiencing a mental health crisis, and if we are said to be a risk to ourselves or to others. This is an exception to the rights guaranteed to us under the ADA. This gives the police the right to search us, enter our private homes and rooms without a warrant, if they consider that there is an imminent danger.
When police are trained in crisis intervention, we are safer.
I want to continue to believe that this is also the goal of the police.
Why is the San Francisco Police Department fighting, and asking the Supreme Court, to end the protections we have against abuse, harm, injury and even death, in moments when we most need to trust them?
In 2008, police shot Teresa Sheehan five time after her caseworker sought assistance in getting her to the hospital for treatment.
Ms. Sheehan is only one of hundreds of people with psychiatric disabilities who police shot, instead of getting to treatment.
Ms. Sheehan is one of few, however, who sued. She argued:
Police officers knew she was in crisis.
Police officers were trained in what to do.
They ignored the training and entered her room twice – the second time by force, shouting with guns drawn.
The disability community is asking the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court and accept the decision to the Appeals Court that ruled that the officers violated Ms. Sheehan’s rights. They should have waited for the back up they had already called. There was no imminent risk to anyone.
When the officers forced their way in Ms. Sheehan’s room that second time, they escalated the situation and Ms. Sheehan felt threatened. This is a violation of her right to “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA.
SFPD is appealing the Supreme Court of the United States. One of the questions to be argued is whether, under the ADA, police have an obligation to provide accommodations to someone with a mental disability.
San Francisco is arguing at the Supreme Court that police officers do not need to take a person’s disability into account when making an arrest.
If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the SFPD, which is very likely with this civil rights unfriendly Court, the practical implication is that every single disabled person becomes a second class citizen. There are several cases that resulted in violence and even death, because the police did not considered the disability of the victims. A decision in favor of the SFPD will make the situation worse and the Police Departments that want the Crisis Intervention Training will not be able to provide safe interactions with disabled people
That’s why we are asking to DROP the appeal, SETTLE the case and TRAIN the officers.
The police want training.
They should be “connecting respecting and protecting”, not commanding, advancing, hurting and killing.
Most people have heard of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. We know their stories and we must demand justice.
They died because they were black.
And remember these names, learn their stories:
They were disabled, most of them people of color, and they were killed by the police.
I am asking you to contact the Mayor of San Francisco and the City Attorney of San Francisco and ask them to drop the appeal. On Twitter, follow hashtag #CareNotKill, use the words “Drop, Settle + Train”
Can you add Stephon Watts to the list? Social Services told his parents to call the cops. He was a black autistic teen. The cops shot and killed him in his home. He had a butter knife.