Half the Victims of Police Brutality Are People With Disabilities, Study Finds
Researchers have uncovered a commonly missing factor in police brutality stories: A victim’s disability. According to an in-depth study published this week by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disabled advocacy group, up to half of all people killed by law enforcement are living with a disability.
This is the case for the majority of the high-profile incidents in the last few years, many of which have become the face of the Black Lives Matter movement, the study finds.
Freddie Gray was a victim of lead poisoning, which can cause developmental disabilities (a fear that’s become more widespread in the aftermath of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis). Sandra Bland had epilepsy, and being jailed without her medication may have unleashed depressive side effects some say lead to her alleged suicide. And officials claimed Eric Garner “almost definitely…would not have died” if he hadn’t suffered from serious obesity — seeming to blame Garner’s disability for his death.
The disabilities featured in these prominent cases, along with many others mentioned in the study, are not always detectable by law enforcement. But others, as with Brian Sterner, who was thrown from his wheelchair by police who though he was faking his disability, and a Houston double amputee shot for threatening an officer with a pen, are impossible to miss.
“Training is a necessary first step. Reforming the system follows closely behind,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation. “The rights of people with disabilities must be respected just like any other American citizen.”