#AdvocacyMatters: Calling For Change

November 17, 2023 / #AdvocacyMatters

In encounters with police, the intersection of race and disability all too often ends in tragedy. Despite representing only 20 percent of the population, those with disabilities make up 30 to 50 percent of individuals subject to police use of force. In the wake of our 2021 report - Policing and Racial Injustice: A Disability Rights Perspective – we joined the Columbus Safety Collective, a coalition focused on the creation of a permanent anti-racist, trauma-informed, non-policing response system in the city of Columbus for people experiencing mental health crises. Earlier this year our advocacy delivered a victory, as Columbus City Council unveiled a $1.2 million amendment to the annual budget to pilot a non-police response to non-violent calls regarding issues such as mental health, concerns regarding un-housed neighbors and more. Unfortunately, that announcement was only an announcement. The Columbus community is still waiting for meaningful action.

This past Monday we stood with our allies outside Columbus City Council and called for the city’s leaders to deliver on their promises.

"There's a lot of frustration at this point. The money has been there for nine months," DRO Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg told ABC 6. "We haven't seen any meaningful commitment by city leadership to implement the program, and we need it now."

Announcements without action do not solve problems, and the disproportionate rate of violent encounters with police suffered at the intersection of race and disability cannot continue unchecked.

“I agree with them,” City Council President Shannon Hardin told Spectrum News. “We’ve been working at it and we need to get it done or at least get more progress moving forward. And I appreciate their advocacy and appreciate them encouraging the city to go in this direction because I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a direction we need to go in,”

“We need real investment in nonpolice alternatives now,” remarked Stephen David with the Columbus Safety Collective. “The people of our city deserve to have reliable access to these services.”

While we are disappointed with the city’s inaction, we are not defeated. Our mission, vision and our strategic direction remains centered on equity, freedom from discrimination, and the empowerment of those unheard. #AdvocacyMatters

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