Lawmakers to reform interactions between police and people with disabilities

Pennsylvania

(Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHTM) — As calls for policy change and prevention of police violence echo across the U.S., Senator Bob Casey is launching a new initiative to help bring about racial justice and address the high incidence rate of police violence involving people with disabilities.

The Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative would reduce calls to 9-1-1 call systems regarding non-criminal emergencies and provide robust training to law enforcement on interacting with people with disabilities, including those experiencing a mental health crisis.

“We must take action to ensure that someone’s ethnicity or mental ability does not preclude them from receiving protection and fair treatment,” said Senator Casey. “My LEAD initiative aims to protect the promise of liberty and justice for all by reforming our emergency systems so that people and police are connected with the resources they need.”

Data from The Washington Post of police shootings estimates that at least 25 percent of shootings involve a person with a mental health disability. A 2016 Ruderman Foundation report estimated that between one-third and half of 2015 shootings involving a law enforcement officer included a person with a disability.

The Safe Interactions Act aims to provide grants which enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities.

It would also establish an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation.

The Safe Interactions Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

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