Much comparison has been made of the shootings this week in Tulsa and Charlotte. In both deaths of Terance Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott by police this week, the factor of disability ties these events together. In Tulsa it was vision and hearing loss, and in Charlotte, it was brain injury. In the video of the Charlotte incident, tragically taken by Scott’s wife, you can hear her scream at the officers that her husband has a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and that he had just taken his medication.
This brings up the issues: Are police trained to recognize how disability may effect how people respond to intervention? Are they trained to recognize the physical, cognitive and behavioral components of disability? Or, in crisis is there a response mode which causes law enforcement personnel to act without consideration of a person’s disability?
We recognize and respect how dangerous police work is and the great risks that each officer takes every day. On the other hand, if they knew more about disability could these tragedies have been prevented.
In hindsight, there are “should have’s” and “could have’s”. We need to help law enforcement understand the impact of disability on what they may see in the streets and understand how disability may effect a person. Life is not a video game, and our ignorance of disability has real and permanent consequences.