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How to make Encounters With Police Safer for People With Disabilities

By April 17, 2018April 2nd, 2024No Comments

People with disabilities account for an astonishing one-third to one-half of all people killed by law enforcement every year.

It’s a disturbing statistic, particularly if you or someone you love suffers from a disability — be it mental or physical.

The Ruderman Family Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, explained in a report that in these cases — cases when a police officer kills someone who is disabled — there is usually widespread media attention and public outcry involved.

One recent example right here in Oklahoma City was the case of

Although all police officers should have some sort of formal training on how to respond to disabled people, there are specific policies and methods that have proven effective.


How can police officers improve their response to disabled people?

One method police departments can try is employing Crisis Intervention Teams:


  • CITs are a collaborative effort between law enforcement, medical professionals, mental health advocates and the mental health community.
  • CIT officers undergo a special training that makes them better able to handle a situation without using force and better able to restrain people without injuring them.
  • CIT officers are also able to look at the situation as a whole and assess where the disabled person needs to go from this point.
  • CIT training teaches verbal de-escalation techniques, a skill set that’s not taught in traditional law enforcement training.


According to the Ruderman Foundation, states and local governments that have implemented crisis intervention teams have shown fewer cases of police officers injuring or killing people with disabilities.

They have also seen:

  • An uptick in jail diversion rates
  • Fewer lawsuits against government bodies
  • Stronger relationships with the mental health field
  • More and more people with disabilities are receiving the community services they need instead of taking up space in jail cells.
  • A drastic decrease in officers being injured by disabled people when responding to calls. In Memphis, where the police department implemented a CIT, officer injuries dropped 80 percent.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness concludes that one reason CITs are so successful is that they connect police officers to a team of clinical professionals, as well as fellow officers, and as a team, they collectively decide the best solution for that particular crisis situation.

Whichever method police departments are trying to better handle people with disabilities, it’s necessary that they treat people with disabilities in accordance with provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of abuse at the hands of a police officer, you need the help of an experienced civil rights attorney on your side. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.