Police brutality occurs all over the world, but most of them happen in the United States. We’ve all seen or read stories about police brutality and what we have noticed is that African Americans are the most prominent race targets of police brutality but what isn’t getting noticed is the word “disabled” and What do I mean by this? The majority of the victims have some kind of disability or mental illness.
Police brutality has been one of the biggest issues in the U.S and other countries and the majority of the victims of police brutality are disabled and it is not a new issue. According to Alem Maqbool, author of a BBC article that contains REAL stories from 2013 of disabled victims that were either assaulted or killed by law enforcement in the country and discussions about the word “disabled” or “mental illness” not highly mentioned in the news. He quotes “Hundreds of people are killed by police In the u.s. each year and much attention has been paid recently to the high proportion that is black. But there’s another disturbing trend that is rarely discussed”. What he means by this is that every year a US citizen is killed by police and the black race has been getting more attention in the news A disturbing trend he is referring to is when the media doesn’t report that a police brutality victim suffers from a mental illness. An author, Mary O’Hara who wrote an article about the issue The Guardian stated that “In addition, according to the foundation, almost all well-known and widely reported cases of police violence involve a disabled person”. O’Hara gives evidence from a foundation that is established by a disability rights non-profit organization in Massachusetts to inform that police violence cases that involved a disabled person are all well known and widely reported, however, the word “disabled” when talking about a victim is never mentioned and most cases do not get any big coverage.
When police respond to a mental crisis, things go very wrong. According to Maqbool’s article, On January 12th, 2013, 26-year old Evan Saylor who suffered from down syndrome was faced down and couldn’t breathe as he was restrained at a movie theater in Maryland. On the evening of the incident, he and his carer were watching Zero Dark Thirty and when the movie was over he refused to leave the building and wanted to see the movie again. When he went left the auditorium and went back in without his carer, three off dut officers that were working as security guards heard that Saylor entered without a ticket for the next showing. The officers told him to leave or he will be arrested and eventually, they forcefully removed him and suddenly Saylor ended up face down not breathing and was dead. On May 25, 2017, 22-year-old Adam Trammell was having a mental break down and police responded and tried to help him and provide medical care but ended up firing tasers at him 15 times and ended up pronounced dead at a hospital. Police said they did this in a way to restrain him but it went too far. Trammell did not act violent or had a weapon. There was no national attention or protests in the aftermath of the incident and this demonstrates that disabled victims are being unnoticed.
While disabled adults are victims of police brutality, children and teenagers that suffer from a disability were killed or assaulted by police as well. According to a New York Times article, a 13-year-old boy from Salt Lake City who suffered from a special needs disorder was shot by a police officer. The boy was autistic. Police responded to a call about a “violent psych issue” referring to the boy having a mental episode. The boy was shot as he was fleeing and caused him to be put in a serious condition at the hospital. According to a Yahoo article published by Bryan Ke, in February of 2021 this year, a 19-year-old Pennsylvania teenager, Christian Hall was shot and killed by state police on the bridge. Hall was suffering from a mental health crisis and his mother said and quote “He needed help, He was looking for help, but instead of getting help, he was killed by those who were supposed to help him.” this was the only incident that was getting more big coverage and it was this year and other pasts incidents should’ve gotten coverage like these. I have a strong feeling that police brutality incidents against disability incidents are getting more coverage but this isn’t just yet.
Unfortunately, we expect police officers to help handle a situation like this but instead, they hurt someone with a mental disorder who is having an episode by either seriously injured or end up killing them. Who are we supposed to turn to if police and other people are hurting the disabled community? It is also upsetting that this is not getting much national attention to spread awareness and to prevent this from happening again. This might be new to most of you because you’ve seen the news coverage about police killing citizens but you never hear a disabled person that is killed by police get news coverage. We need to fix these problems in our society.
What needs to be done is police reform instead of defunding the police. Why? Because defunding police make it worse and it won’t help. To do police reform, there needs to be extra training and workshops on how to handle mental crisis incidents so that in the future we won’t have to deal with this and so that it can be corrected because these incidents are tearing families apart and are affecting communities. Also, this can teach other officers and future officers how to handle them when they enter the law enforcement work industry. Second, we need to spread awareness by posting and airing public service announcement commercials on social media and TV. We can even share this in public such as billboards, posters on buildings, and transportation so that people can notice and acknowledge what happens when they see a video of police violence so that they’ll figure out that the victim is disabled. Finally, we need to get the attention of activists and news organizations like CNN, Fox News, and others and local news so that they can share it by sending emails, petitions, tagging them on social media, and direct messaging them. Also, we need to bring attention to legislators and politicians by sending a message and emails to them to persuade them to propose and pass a bill/law that provokes police brutality and misconduct against citizens and protects disabled people and non-disabled people by passing a disability rights act.