Report: Half of people killed by police have a mental defect

Report: Half of people killed by police have a mental defect
Laquan McDonald (Image: Family photo)

Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, according to a new report, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.

The report, published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability organization, proposes that while police interactions with minorities draw increasing scrutiny, disability and health considerations are still neglected in media coverage and law enforcement policy.

“Police have become the default responders to mental health calls,” write the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who analyzed incidents from 2013 to 2015. They propose that “people with psychiatric disabilities” are presumed to be “dangerous to themselves and others” in police interactions.

The report wades directly into the racial debates over policing, noting that while coverage of police brutality cases has understandably “focused on race,” that lens can also obscure how disability also factors into police interactions.

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