New Bills Aim to Reduce Violence Between Law Enforcement and People with Disabilities

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This week, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced three bills to address the high incidence of violence involving law enforcement and people with disabilities: The Human-Services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Actthe Safe Interactions Act (SIA)and the Data on Interactions and Accountability for Law Enforcement with Individuals with Disabilities (DIALED) Actreport from the Ruderman Family Foundation found that 33 to 50 percent of all use-of-force instances involve people with mental health disabilities, disproportionately higher than the percentage of the population with a mental health disability.

“Far too often, people with disabilities and people experiencing mental health crises end up in fraught interactions with law enforcement who are unprepared to manage the situation, resulting in meaningless violence. It is vital that we break this cycle,” said Senator Casey. “The heartbreaking stories of Walter Wallace, Jr., Ricardo Muñoz, Osaze Osagie, Christian Hall, and many others tell us that we need to do more to prevent tragedies like these in the future. My legislation would connect people and police with the resources they need and keep more people safe from violence.”

The Human-Services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act would divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from 9-1-1 systems to state and regional 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 systems, while providing resources and funding to improve 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 referral systems. The bill would create an oversight system for the 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 networks comprised of community members who represent older adults, people with disabilities, communities of color, Tribal and Native Peoples, and LGBTQ+ people. The HELP Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

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The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants to enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs that support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities. The training would be directed to both new and veteran officers and would include people with disabilities in the training as instructors. It would also establish an advisory council, chaired by a person with a disability, to oversee the training program development and implementation. The Safe Interactions Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The Data on Interactions and Accountability for Law Enforcement with Individuals with Disabilities (DIALED) Act would improve transparency by developing data collection to get an accurate representation of how people with disabilities are affected by interactions with law enforcement, including use-of-force and fatal interactions. The DIALED Act would amend the Death in Custody Reporting Act and the FBI Use of Force Data Collection Program to ensure that disability status is collected and reported publicly. The legislation would also create a national advisory council on disability status and law enforcement interaction data collection, tasked with developing collection and reporting methodologies and providing recommendations to the Attorney General on best practices. The DIALED Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and John Fetterman (D-PA).

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