George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020
Posted on July 02, 2020
AUGUSTA – Disability Rights Maine (DRM) joins its partners in the National Disability Rights Network in applauding the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
We are heartened by the nationwide groundswell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota just over a month ago. Maine, one of the two whitest states in the country, is in the throes of grappling with racial justice and police brutality. As we strive to make our state truly accessible to all, we recognize that people with disabilities inhabit diverse identities across race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and more. Our interests are intertwined.
Nationwide, data gathered by The Washington Post show that approximately one quarter of the people killed by police since January 1, 2015 had a label of mental illness. In Maine, a 2019 task force report reviewed ten cases of police use of deadly force, and concluded that eight of the individuals involved had some history of “mental health challenges.”
The policies embedded in this bill would help lessen the dangers that the police pose to people with disabilities. The legislation includes several important policies, such as the creation of a national use of force standard, banning chokeholds, establishment of a police misconduct registry, and prohibiting no-knock warrants for drug offenses. The bill also includes provisions on use of force reporting, requiring the collection of disability status when forceful action is used by a police officer against a civilian – information-gathering that is long overdue.
“The disability community should not have to live in fear of the police,” said DRM Executive Director Kim Moody. “Because people with disabilities may act or communicate in unexpected ways, we are at greater risk of police violence. We can no longer tolerate the use of deadly force against our community members due to prejudice and an outdated sense of what is ‘normal.’ This bill marks an important step forward, and we hope to see it spark meaningful discussion in the Senate.”
Further resources on police violence and disability:
- The Overlooked Reality of Police Violence Against Disabled Black Americans, podcast (and transcript), WNYC (New York NPR)
- The Ruderman White Paper on Media Coverage of Law Enforcement Use of Force and Disability
- Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray: the toll of police violence on disabled Americans, opinion piece, The Guardian
- We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project, video and toolkit, National Council on Independent Living
Through its operation of multiple federal, state and privately-funded programs, DRM advocates for individuals with disabilities whose rights have been violated, who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or who have faced discrimination on the basis of their disability. DRM seeks redress where rights concerns arise related housing, education, physical access, rehabilitation, health care, community supports, and employment. Additionally, DRM works toward public policy reform through training, outreach and systemic advocacy.