IDAC Statement on Police, Disabilities, and Racism

October 13, 2020


October 2020 Statement on Police, Disabilities, and Racism

Rev. Dr. Kate Epperly, Minister of Justice and Advocacy for Families and Children, represents Disciples Homes Missions on the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative (a subgroup of AAPD). IDAC has just issued an important statement which Dr. Epperly invites you to read and share with your friends and colleagues as you feel called:

IDAC  is grieving over the recent incident on Sept. 4, 2020, of police violence against a person with a disability – Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with autism shot repeatedly by a police officer in Utah – and in response, calls members of faith communities to speak out on the broader issue of police violence as it relates to both disabilities and race.

There are many cases like Linden Cameron’s and Ethan Saylor’s – a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who died from police violence in 2017 – that demonstrate most explicitly the consequences of interactions with police officers who are not adequately equipped or trained to understand the needs of people with disabilities. In many other cases though, disability is an issue that is consistently overlooked or misunderstood in media coverage, in statistics on police violence, in police training and in policy. However, people with disabilities, like people with mental health conditions, make up a large percentage of those killed by police and use-of-force incidents.

Additionally, when we look at the fact that Black people have the second highest rate of disabilities in this country after American Indians and Alaska Natives, we are called to remember Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and other Black Americans whose disability and dignity were ignored and consequently died at the hands of our nation’s police officers. Much of the dialogue on police reform has rightfully focused on addressing racism and police violence. However, it is crucial that we recognize the urgency of addressing the intersection of race and disability as we seek to end police violence in our communities and that we support the disabled people of color who have already been doing this intersectional work to address the issue.

IDAC affirms that the outcome of an interaction with the police should not be determined by one’s race, by one’s disability or by any combination thereof. We require federal policies that monitor, respect, and address the needs of people with disabilities, especially people of color with disabilities, in all aspects of the criminal justice system from law enforcement interactions to incarceration. It is crucial to further educate and train law enforcement and invest in solutions for people with disabilities and for people who experience mental health crises that do not necessitate police intervention which might lead to excessive use of force or death. Finally, we must vote and raise these issues during and after the November election to hold everyone accountable for maintaining the humanity and dignity of all.

The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC) is a nonpartisan coalition of national religious organizations whose central mission is to ensure people with disabilities have the same access to opportunity and enjoy the same civil-rights protections as people without disabilities by taking action on disability policy with Congress, the President and Administration, and society-at-large.