Washington, D.C. – Yet another unnecessary police shooting of a person with a disability has occurred, this time in Salt Lake City, Utah, where 13-year-old Linden Cameron was shot by officers multiple times on Friday night while he was in crisis. His mother had called police for assistance when Linden, who has autism, was experiencing behaviors related to his disability likely due to a disruption in his routine. Linden needed an intervention but instead, police responding to the situation shot the teenager multiple times, causing significant injuries.“How this call for help escalated, and so quickly, into a tragic shooting of a 13-year-old is incomprehensible. A thorough, swift, and transparent investigation must be done for Linden, his family, and the community.
“No one should ever be hurt or killed by police because of who they are. But time and time again, interactions between police and marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, end in violence. According to research, almost half of people killed by police have some kind of disability. The Arc stands in solidarity with all communities that continue to face over-policing and mourn for those lost to police violence.
“To achieve the full participation of people with disabilities in their communities, we must demand recognition and respect for their human dignity, as well as understanding and acceptance of their differences. Whether the call goes to police, or another crisis intervention team, these are the fundamentals that must be ingrained in our society. We must develop systems that support individuals and families in these situations so that law enforcement is not called in. We have to change our response – not the person with the disability, or the person in crisis. In the meantime, I fear for millions of people like Linden who simply by being who they are, are at risk of tragic violence when they or a loved one call for help,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.
The Arc is committed to learning from every instance of police violence against marginalized communities in order to advocate effectively for much-needed reform. The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) is key to this effort. NCCJD promotes safety, fairness, and justice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially those with hidden disabilities and marginalized identities, as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, and incarcerated persons. Without access to justice, individuals with disabilities will continue to be overrepresented in every part of the criminal legal system. Law enforcement must receive effective training to prepare them for situations involving interactions with people with disabilities. To address this critical issue, NCCJD created Pathways to Justice, a comprehensive, community-based program that improves access to justice by creating and building relationships between the disability and criminal justice communities.
This year The Arc of California co-sponsored AB 911 which would create an opt-in directory for individuals and families to provide law-enforcement with information – such as types of disability and mental health conditions – for an individual prior to law-enforcement’s interaction with that individual. Due to costs assigned to the bill the proposal was scaled back by the Legislature to require the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to complete a study to determine the feasibility of developing a statewide system that would enable all Californians to voluntarily provide vital health and safety information, with an encrypted connection, to be made available to all first responders in an emergency if a “911” call is placed
In 2018, sponsors of AB 911 also partnered with Assemblyman Jim Cooper, Chair of the California State Assembly’s Select Committee on Community and Law Enforcement Relations and Responsibilities, to convene a special hearing on the interactions of law enforcement and people with disabilities. The hearing included many practices across the state currently being used to mitigate tragic interactions. The video of that hearing can be viewed here.
To learn more about The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) please watch the video below: