Disability Advocates Testify Against Police Violence toward Chicago Disability Community

Photo from Chicago Sun Times Newspaper
On July 12, Advance Youth Leadership Power, Access Living Youth Community Organizing Group, hosted a vigil to honor people with disabilities who have been killed or assaulted by police. The vigil was held just prior to a US Department of Justice Public Hearing on Police Violence at Truman College. The public hearing is part of an investigation of the Chicago Police Department in response recent police violence against people of color in Chicago. AYLP organized the vigil to bring attention to disability in the context of police violence. Though disability is seldom mentioned, at least 50% of police violence reported in the media involves people with disabilities and nationally people with disabilities are four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

Melinda Manson, an Access Living advocate and the mother of children with disabilities, participated in the vigil and public hearing. Several years ago, police erroneously stormed into Manson’ backyard with guns drawn. They were searching for a suspect who was down the block. The incident had a deep impact on Manson and her then six year old son. In an article from DNA Info, Manson said, “My son had nightmares for a few years, but he's doing better now.” Testifying during the Department of Justice hearing, Manson said, “My fear is if he has a reaction and I have to call police, they will kill him because he can't sit still.”

Advance Youth Leadership Power hopes to end police violence toward people with disabilities and hold the Chicago Police Department accountable for those actions. Specifically, AYLP:

• Calls on the Superintendent and all precincts to severely punish officers who kill people without legitimate reason. Severe punishment includes suspension without pay, expulsion from the Chicago Police Department, revoking the right to carry firearms, mandatory training on interacting with the disability community, and jail sentencing.

• Encourages the police to report any pre-existing medical conditions on police reports, including those involving police violence; and

• Demands officers be trained in not only crisis intervention, but also establishing a strong, inclusive connection with the disability community in each precinct.

Candace Coleman
Community Development Organizer – Racial Justice