A new report that took into account a two-year period of police-related fatalities revealed that half the individuals killed suffered from some form of disability.
Authors of the report, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, studied shooting events that occurred between 2013 and 2015, noting that people with certain mental disabilities are assumed to be a danger to themselves and others.
NBC News reports:
Take one of the most discussed recent police brutality cases — the Chicago Police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, a black teenager killed while acting erratically and holding a knife. Prosecutors took the unusual step of charging an officer with first degree murder, noting McDonald did not pose a lethal threat to the officers who had surrounded him. When video of the shooting was released, it sparked the resignation of Chicago’s police chief and a national debate over race and policing.
There was far less focus, however, on McDonald’s health. According to a later investigation by the Chicago Tribune, McDonald suffered from PTSD and “complex mental health problems.”
That reality may be relevant to his conduct the night of his death — and ways the police might have de-escalated the interaction.
Perry and Carter-Long state in their report that “Police have become the default responders to mental health calls” and cite several instances where officers responding to calls were ill-equipped to handle a person with disabilities.
The report mentions the case of Frederick County, Md. man, Robert Ethan Saylor, who had Down’s Syndrome. Saylor went to see the film “Zero Dark Thirty” and refused to leave the theater for a second showing. Frederick County deputies moonlighting as security dragged Saylor out, who later died of asphyxiation.
NBC News wrote that police departments around the country are adopting new training techniques to address these mental health episodes, as was suggested in Perry and Carter-Long’s report.
SOURCE: NBC News | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty