Half of people killed by police in US are disabled: Report
Nearly half of people killed by police in the United States have some form of mental or physical disability, according to a new study that highlights the excessive force often used by American police.
While police interactions with African Americans draw increasing scrutiny, disability and health considerations are still neglected in media coverage and law enforcement policy, according to a report published by the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation.
“Police have become the default responders to mental health calls,” write the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who analyzed incidents from 2013 to 2015.
The report says police assume that “people with psychiatric disabilities” are “dangerous to themselves and others” and use brutal force to restrain them.
The study found that one in 10 of all police interactions involve people suffering from mental or physical illness.
The report notes that while coverage of police brutality cases has understandably “focused on race,” that lens can also obscure how disability also factors into police interactions.
In one example, the Foundation said the media failed to report that Sandra Bland, the black woman arrested by a Texas state trooper after she refused to put out her cigarette during a traffic stop, was not only depressed, but also epileptic.
Bland’s suicide in her jail call made headlines, but less-reported was the fact she stopped receiving her epilepsy treatment while in jail. According to the FDA, sudden withdrawal from Keppra can cause “suicidal thoughts.”
The report also mentions the Chicago Police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, a black teenager killed while acting erratically and holding a knife. According to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune newspaper, McDonald suffered from PTSD and “complex mental health problems.”
Police in the United States killed over 1,150 people in 2015, with the largest police departments disproportionately killing at least 321 African Americans, according to data compiled by an activist group that runs the Mapping Police Violence project.