Tag Archives: police

Recommended Reading for December 7, 2010

Cheryl at Finding my Way: On Privilege, Again

It was after this that the almost imperceptible freak out occurred. What am I going to do when it snows? How am I going to get food this winter? People / the county just don’t shovel sidewalks very well and it’s too far to roll in the street. At least you could get to the old grocery store by cutting through the mall and you’d barely be outside at all. It’s too cold for me to be outside that long in the winter. Cold hurts. Even in the daylight, in a few weeks it will be too cold. It’s 20-25min each way. I don’t want to take paratransit somewhere I could roll (absent snow). I don’t want to pay a cab to get somewhere I could roll. What a waste of money and time and aggravation.

CCA Captioning: WHY CART in Courts/justice

As I am awaiting a verdict in what would normally be an “average” vehicular manslaughter trial, I wanted to share the many interesting stumbling blocks that arose. The defendant in this five-day trial is profoundly hard of hearing. I was called in and hired by the Superior Court as a “realtime interpreter” to provide accessibility for the defendant during his trial. The official reporter proceeded with her duties, as it would be impossible to have done both, which I will explain later. I was fortunate to have a wonderful courthouse staff to work with in this small town of Cochise County in Bisbee, AZ, about 1.5 hours from my home in Tucson.

Gwen at Sociological Images: Regional variation in adults with diabetes, 2004-2008

Here’s a problem: neither the CDCP nor the Slate article specify. They say “adult diabetes,” meaning individuals over the age of 18 who are diagnosed with diabetes (so not necessarily adult onset diabetes). I think that would mean either Type 1 or Type 2.

Katie Zezima for the New York Times: Mental health cuts put police on the front line of care

Despite increased awareness, many officers, mental health workers and advocates for the mentally ill say that with fewer hospital beds and reduced outpatient services — especially at centers that treat the uninsured — many patients’ family members and friends, and even bystanders, are turning to the police as the first choice for help when a crisis occurs. Many states are feeling the brunt of cuts that started years ago but have gotten worse because of the economy.

Christina Fuoco-Karasinski at Soundspike: Charlotte Martin dances past “Needles” to a happy ending

“One day I remember doing a set of push ups, and something just snapped, and it went from numb to pain [in October 2009]. It was a really confusing, painful journey trying to figure out what exactly it was. You’d be surprised. There are a lot of doctors that didn’t know what it was. They really thought it was muscles or tendons. But I’ve got this burning shooting thing happening. It continued to get worse. It was really awful.”

What Guides To Interacting With Police Leave Out

Many organisations concerned about violations of civil rights and police brutality put out guides for civilians, providing a framework for interacting with law enforcement. These guides are usually designed to help people safeguard their civil rights and avoid police brutality while smoothing interactions with law enforcement as much as possible. The idea is that, well, people are going to come into contact with law enforcement, so they might as well have some tips on making those interactions minimally traumatic and upsetting1.

For people with disabilities, interactions with law enforcement sometimes go very wrong, very fast. We are denied interpreters, our mobility devices are taken away, we are Tased, we are beaten, we are shot. I’ve noticed an uptick in reporting on really disturbing interactions between people with disabilities and law enforcement in recent weeks, and I had a grand plan of linking to some guides just as a general resource for readers, except that I noticed that most of these guides have some extremely glaring holes when it comes to disability. They are obviously written for nondisabled people, and a lot of them have advice that is just plain not helpful, at all.

‘Look the officer in the eye at all times.’

‘Don’t fidget or twitch.’

‘Speak clearly and evenly, in a neutral tone.’

‘Hold your hands where the officer can see them.’

‘Don’t make any sudden movements.’

‘Watch your language.’

These are all things that these guides say. And I suspect that, were I to go to one of these organisations and say ‘hey, you know, these guidelines are actually not super helpful for people with disabilities,’ they would say ‘well, you should inform the officer that you are disabled as soon as you come into contact’ or ‘you should carry cards about your disabilities and hand them to law enforcement.’ Except that people with disabilities do this and we are still abused by law enforcement.

The outcome of interactions with law enforcement is highly inconsistent and is very much tied in with intersectional issues like race. Let’s say you have a situation where a person who uses a cane is pulled over and ordered to get out of the car. The person says ‘ok, but, Officer, I want you to know that I use a cane for mobility. It is not a weapon, but I do need it to stand and walk safely, and I wanted you to know that before I got out of the car.’ The race of the person being pulled over shouldn’t affect the way the officer responds to that, but it will, and the colour of your skin should not determine whether you get your mobility device seized or not.

The idea that you just tell the Nice Officer about your disabilities and everything is ok is quaint and all, but really does not work out in practice. I’m trying to imagine a situation where I say ‘Officer, I’m not trying to give you the sideye, I just have a very difficult time making eye contact with people.’ Yeah. That’s going to go over real well. How many cases of ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ do there need to be before we acknowledge that the ‘communication breakdown’ here is not on the side of people with disabilities, but on the side of law enforcement?

There are actually guidelines that police officers are supposed to follow when interacting with people with disabilities. There’s a video series from the United States government, and here’s another guide from the United States, based on the Americans With Disabilities Act (thanks for finding this, abby jean!). This document is pretty clear about the fact that, for example, interpreters need to be provided2. But then: ‘Your agency’s policy explains how to obtain interpreters or other communication aids and services when needed.’ This places the burden on an individual police department or agency. What if a police department doesn’t have a disability policy? What if officers for a particular agency aren’t provided with any training in interacting with people with disabilities? What happens then?

All of the guides I could find for interacting with police officers demonstrated a whole lot of ableism. They were structured and predicated around the idea that certain things are always possible, like, say, ‘speaking in an even tone’ or ‘not fidgeting’ and really didn’t provide any suggestions for those of us who actually do not find these things possible. Such guides seem to me to place the responsibility for bad interactions on civilians rather than on law enforcement, and that’s especially evident in the way that they just completely ignore disability, and the best advice they can provide on race is basically ‘watch your tone.’

I know that many of these organisations are approaching this problem from both sides. They’re providing civilians with information to help them survive now while also working with law enforcement agencies to establish better policies and programs. They’re not arguing that these interactions are one sided and are actively promoting better training for law enforcement, trying to address issues like racial and class disparities in policing.

But one thing I see repeatedly being left out, not just from guides for civilians, but also in pushes for police reform, is better training for interacting with people with disabilities. I see lip service occasionally, usually in the wake of really awful cases like Deaf folks being shot for ‘refusing’ to comply with verbal orders from police, but I don’t see much follow through. Some disability rights organisations are working with individual police departments; I’ve actually interacted directly with several police officers and provided advice and suggestions on making encounters with people with disabilities go more smoothly, but this reduces the situation to individual cases. It’s good that something rather than nothing is happening, but I would like to see nationwide policy initiatives, like very clear requirements that all law enforcement officers receive appropriate training in working with people with disabilities.

And I want to see those training programs designed by people with disabilities and law enforcement working together.

  1. Of course, such guides leave out some important topics, like who is most likely to come into contact with law enforcement, and the fact that for some people, even following these guides to the letter will not result in a positive outcome, because the deck is stacked against them from the start. A Nice White Lady and a young Native American man being separately pulled over for speeding, for example, will be treated very differently, whether or not both follow the guidelines.
  2. But only sometimes! Other times, like ’emergencies,’ it’s ok to plow on ahead without one.

On Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter: It’s not ok for police to immobilise PWD for questioning

This post is not spoily for the Dexter TV series to date, except perhaps for the premise. It contains a very minor spoiler for an event that occurs at the start of Dexter By Design. Comments may contain spoilers up to the Chapter Ten of Dexter by Design, but no further please..

At the moment I’m reading Dexter by Design (2009), by Jeff Lindsay. It is the fourth book in the Dexter series, a thriller/crime series with a touch of spec fic, set in current-day Miami. Dexter Morgan and his foster sister Deb are both police officers working in homicide; Dexter a blood-spatter expert and Deb a sergeant. Dexter is also a serial killer, brought up by his police officer foster dad to follow “The Code”, to only kill murderers who have escaped justice, and to not get caught.

Last night I read the scene below, and it hit all my rage buttons. Coming on the heels of the Ayr incident where a police officer stolen a woman’s mobility scooter, and the episode in Colorado where a teacher duct taped a disabled 12-year-old’s only communicative hand to his wheelchair, it was all too much.

The scene is excerpted below the cut. Additional warning for lots of taboo language; NSFW.

Continue reading On Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter: It’s not ok for police to immobilise PWD for questioning