Stop cops from killing people with disabilities

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking police exemption from the Americans with Disabilities Act has critical importance for all those seeking to stop unwarranted police killings. This case involves police shootings of people with mental illnesses. Intervention is needed to stop the high court from using this case to strengthen the hand of the police and lessen police accountability in the killings of people with disabilities. Many of those killed were people of color.

Oral arguments are set for March 23 in the case of Sheehan v. San Francisco, brought before the Supreme Court by the city of San Francisco.

disability_0312More than 40 civil rights and disability activist groups have signed a letter urging San Francisco officials to drop the appeal. They ask that concerned people join this write-in campaign. ( The Workers World Party People with Disabilities Caucus is one of the groups ciruclating and getting signatures for this letter.

Please join this crucial effort. Copy and sign the letter below and mail or email it to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

ADA should be expanded and enforced, not gutted!

The letter begins here:

Ed Lee, Mayor, City and County of San Francisco
City Hall, 1 Doctor Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 200
San Francisco, CA 94102 [email protected]

Dennis Herrera, City Attorney, City and County of San Francisco
City Hall, 1 Doctor Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 234
San Francisco, CA 94102 [email protected]

Dear Mayor Lee and City Attorney Herrera:

I/we join more than 42 civil rights and disability rights groups and many progressive individuals in urging you to withdraw your appeal in the case of City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. Your appeal could result in the Supreme Court exempting police from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most comprehensive civil rights law for individuals with disabilities. Your appeal puts the ADA at risk, and could lead to an increase in unwarranted police killings of people with disabilities.

People with disabilities need the ADA’s protections when they encounter law enforcement. A 2013 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association revealed that at least half of the people shot and killed by police are people with mental disabilities. Many times these police had been called to help a person in psychiatric crisis. Often police who are first on the scene quickly respond with deadly force, without waiting for a unit specially trained to deal with people with disabilities to arrive.

In San Francisco, the figures are even higher. A local review of 51 San Francisco police-involved shootings between 2005 and 2013 found that 58% of the 19 shootings of people killed by police had a psychiatric disability.

People with many types of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, emotional disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy and deafness, face dangerous and often deadly consequences when law enforcement officials fail to honor the ADA.

The ADA needs to be expanded and honored, especially when it comes to encounters with police. Having a disability must not be a death sentence!