Magdiel Sanchez of Oklahoma City, Scout Schultz of Georgia Tech and Stephon Watts in Calumet City are just a few of the people with disabilities who have died during police encounters.
In many instances, police officers are not properly trained to handle situations in which a person they encounter has a disability. In fact, a 2016 report by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that up to half of the people killed by police in the U.S. have a disability.
Elizabeth Lewis, the project manager for the Texas Center for Disability Studies at the University of Texas says a person with a disability may be unable to understand or respond to a police command, may not make eye contact or may have a hidden disability.
“The problem is that certain behaviors that we might assume are suspicious might in fact not be, and are in fact related to the individual’s disability,” Lewis says.
Lewis says that law enforcement is paying greater attention to training officers for these situations.
Written by Jen Rice.