December 14, 2021
Creating Connection Through Conversation
In the U.S., around 61 million adults – or one in four – have a disability. That means that the odds are good that a high percentage of police interactions will involve someone with either a hidden or visible disability.
There is no reliable database that tracks how many people with disabilities – including those with mental illness – have negative outcomes during their interactions with law enforcement. However, studies have shown the numbers are substantial. For example, a white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation states that, “Disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. Disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention.”
Often, the first step to solving a problem like this is to have an open, honest conversation about it. So last September, The IC hosted a disability-related conversation between members of the disability community and law enforcement. Over 50 community members and 11 Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) representatives gathered at The IC to share
experiences and learn from each other.
“This event was an opportunity for CSPD to hear directly from people with disabilities about their experiences and concerns, to ask questions, and to develop relationships,” said Deb Walker, Director of Strategic Partnerships for The IC. “We hope that events like these will advance trust between people with disabilities and CSPD, in addition to helping people with disabilities advocate for themselves safely while engaging with law enforcement.”
Officers shared tips for safe interactions, but they also learned as much – if not more – from the community members in attendance. According to Jason Newton, Community Relations Sergeant with CSPD, the event helped officers improve and enhance how they communicate and connect with people with disabilities.
“For far too long members of the disability community have gone out of their way to accommodate the world around them, including the police,” he said. “We wanted the opportunity to connect with these community members and let them know that we care and that it should be our burden, not theirs.”
Both Walker and Newton hope that this is just the first in a series of conversations that will make future interactions between law enforcement and the disability community safer for all.
To learn more about how to advocate for yourself and others with disabilities, call The IC’s Community Organizer at 719-471-8181.
Photo courtesy: Colorado Springs Police Department