Capitol Correspondence - 12.15.20

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) Introduces Bill to Reduce Violent Interactions between Law Enforcement and People with Disabilities

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Many of our members have shared with us over the years the challenges facing individuals they support due to law enforcement being unfamiliar with the unique behaviors and communication styles of people with intellectual / developmental disabilities. These issues are further compounded by racial inequities, a topic ANCOR members cited as a key priority during our 2020 Policy Summit. For the benefit of members who continue to grapple with these issues, we share this press release from U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA):

“Washington, D.C. – As the Nation reckons with the high profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of police officers and growing calls for policy changes to prevent future violence, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is launching the Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative, to help bring about racial justice and address the high incidence rate of police violence involving people with disabilities. The LEAD Initiative is comprised of two bills – the Safe Interactions Act and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act – which 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. […]

The Washington Post database 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 HELP Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 referral systems. The bill would create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, ethnic and racial community members and members of other communities. The HELP Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants to enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities. The training would be directed to both new and veteran officers and would include people with disabilities in the training as instructors. 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).

Read more about the HELP Act here.

Read more about the Safe Interactions Act here.