The disabilities that affect New Yorkers and other people across the country are constantly misunderstood. If a person doesn't have a close connection to a certain type of disability, he or she may not understand the different ways a disability can affect the person who lives with it. Unfortunately, when it comes to law enforcement, this can be a huge problem.
Less than a year ago, a man was killed by police after an altercation at a movie theater in a different state. The man would not leave the theater, so police took action that resulted in his death. Many people were horrified at this tragedy because the man who was killed had Down syndrome. Some feel that had police had a better understanding of the condition and better training on how to work with people with disabilities, his life could have been saved.
While it is unfortunate that one person had to die to make movement in this area, the federal government recently awarded The Arc a $400,000 grant to find a way to prevent devastating situations like this from happening again.
The Arc has plans to use the grant to build a national center that will strive to improve communication efforts between police and people with developmental disabilities, who often face serious challenges in the criminal justice system. The new center will include resources for those who have been victimized by police, including attorney and victim advocate directories. It will also house a resource library and training sessions.
As this plan gets put into action, hopefully we will see a dramatic improvement in the way police officers across the country interact with people who live with a developmental disability.
Source: Disability Scoop, "Center To Bridge Divide Between Disability Community, Police," Michelle Diament, Sept. 23, 2013