#AdvocacyMatters: Policing Alternatives and Disability Justice

November 4, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

The past couple of years have seen a rise in media coverage of police brutality and systemic racism within policing. However, one intersection that does not always receive enough coverage is the history of police violence towards those with disabilities, specifically BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color). BIPOC people with disabilities are much more likely to be victims of excessive force, and this in turn has led to disproportionate representation of disabled people and BIPOC in our prisons and jails. DRO is dedicated to proposing solutions where race and disability intersect. Therefore, it is essential to the safety of BIPOC people with disabilities, and the disabled community as a whole, that we discuss and invest in alternatives and push for anti-racist, trauma-informed, and non-policing mental health crisis response systems.

DRO Legal Advocacy Director Kevin Truitt recently participated in a panel on “Community Safety and Liberation.” The panel was organized by the Social Justice Institute of Case Western Reserve University, and the panel also featured Monica Bell from Yale Law School and Kareem Henton from Black Lives Matter Cleveland. Kevin first spoke of examples of people experiencing mental health crises whose lives were lost from their interactions with police: Jaron Thomas in Columbus, Tanisha Anderson in Cleveland, and Daniel Prude in Rochester, NY. He then focused on DRO’s work and participation in the Columbus Safety Collective, our public report on police violence and the intersection of race and disability, and how we can make our communities safer by investing in anti-racist, trauma-informed, health-centered approaches to problems in our society—instead of punitive systems like police, jails, prisons, psychiatric hospitals and other forms of forced treatment. Lastly, Kevin touched on the crucial need to propel those directly impacted by this harm and oppression to the forefront of the conversation on solutions:

“I was honored to participate in this community event last weekend. These conversations are so crucial. Police violence disproportionately impacts individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and we know that a person’s disability, particularly a psychiatric disability, also increases the likelihood of harm occurring. There are solutions to prevent these tragedies in the future and having an engaged community talking about these issues—particularly those who are directly impacted by oppression, harm, and violence and who are often shut out of the conversation—is a big part of that.”

DRO’s report, which was accepted and published by the United Nations in 2021, “Policing and Racial Injustice: A Disability Rights Perspective” pushes forward meaningful policy recommendations to reduce police presence, divest funds from police, and create safer communities. It breaks down how excessive use-of-force by police has disproportionately affected people with disabilities and how police in schools sustain the school-to-prison pipeline for students with disabilities. Its conclusion for more safe and inclusive communities requires restructuring budgets towards typically underfunded disability services, reinvesting in community-based services that already support those with disabilities, changing the crisis response, and eliminating school resource officers.

Although people with disabilities account for only 20% of the population, they represent 30-50% of individuals killed by police. Non-policing alternatives are based in disability justice. DRO will continue to fight for all those at the intersection of race and disability, because #AdvocacyMatters.

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