Every day I read something about disability that frightens me out of my wits. I generally have strong wits so this is a serious declaration on my part. There’s the story of Sean Vidal, a North Carolina teen with schizophrenia who was shot to death by police. Or the death of Robert Saylor who had Down Syndrome and died of asphyxiation after being handcuffed and tasered by police. Then there’s the story of Charlie McGillivary, a man with severe brain damage, who couldn’t speak, who was murdered by police in Toronto. More stories of disability murder at the hands of police can be found here.
Then there’s the story of two Maryland teen girls who bullied an autistic boy into performing sexual acts.
“The girls, ages 17 and 15, threatened the teen with a knife, kicked him in the groin and dragged him around by his hair, said St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Cara Grumbels. They coerced him into walking on a partially frozen pond and then refused to help him out of the frigid water, she said.”
Or how about this: “Trigger Happy Cop Kills Disabled Man’s Service Dog”
Or the story of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with mental illness, who was beaten into a coma by Fullerton, California police.
These stories are indeed legion.
This is why the Senate’s hearings on disability and law enforcement are critically important. But the issue of disability and law enforcement is more complex than this quote from Senator Durbin would have it:
“As local mental health and disability services become increasingly scarce, the burden on police officers to play both law enforcer and social worker will only grow,” Durbin said, adding that Congress and the executive branch need to help local and state law enforcement “develop practices that protect police officers, disabled individuals and the public.”
Notice the de facto assumption that mental health and disability services are scarce and will become ever more scarce according to the Senator. This is what frightens me out of my wits.
The American people deserve solid mental health services and disability rehabilitation programs. What’s Congress doing instead?
They’re promoting the idea that Social Security Disability programs are largely fraudulent or fighting to prevent the US adoption of the UN Charter on Disability Rights.
Scared? You bet I’m scared.