We need systemic change to save black lives

We need systemic change to save black lives
Credit: Tannen Maury/EPA

Calling 911 should not be a death-wish. On Saturday, police were called to Quintonio LeGrier’s home because he was suffering from a mental health episode which frightened his family. Legrier, a 19-year-old college student, and 55-year-old grandmother-activist Bettie Jones ended up dead – both were shot by Chicago police.

LeGrier’s father, who called the police, said that his son had “emotional issues”. It’s still unclear how police came to shoot Quintonio seven times. Police say Bettie Jones, a neighbor, was “accidentally” shot. The officers involved in this shooting are on desk duty for at least 30 days pending a department investigation into their actions. There may be no video this time. Few in Chicago expect accountability.

In a city like Chicago, those with mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to police violence; since Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed half of the public mental health clinics in 2012, police are our mental health first responders. Sins Invalid, a disability justice-based performance project, issued a statement on police violence last year suggesting that “disabled people who are autistic, who are deaf, who live with mental health impairments, or cognitive impairments, epilepsy or movement disorders, are at highest risk of being assaulted by police”.

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