Recently, video has surfaced of police trying to throw a man in a wheelchair from his chair. Allegedly, the individual ran over the officer’s foot.
Here are some other incidents worth remembering. And these are just the ones caught on tape.
- Brian Sterner thrown from his wheelchair by an officer who thought he might be faking (I write about this as the “pencil test” for wheelchair users).
- Dwight Harris thrown from his chair in DC in 2011. He was allegedly intoxicated and not complying.
- Indiana police officer knocks Nicholas Kincade from his wheelchair for bumping into an officer.
- Here’s an Oakland school security officer beating and throwing a student from his chair. He was arrested and fired [Note – Not technically “police” but school culture, I argue, is part of the broader cult of compliance. If you are new to the blog, start here for that concept].
That’s just five that happened to be caught on video. How many more are out there?
There are circumstances in which a person in a wheelchair might indeed threaten an officer. Wheelchair users are human. They can carry firearms. They can break the law. I do not believe, based on what we know, any of these incidents meet that standard. I would suggest the following guideline – if you, as a law enforcement officer, would not consider breaking the individual’s legs, also do not knock them from their chair.
If a wheelchair user does something requiring a law-enforcement response, such as intentionally rolling over a foot (those chairs are heavy), two choices emerge. 1) Arrest/cite them. 2) Let it go, the way one might at a little nudge from a shoulder as someone brushes by you. There is no option #3 – dehumanize them.
Because that’s what these acts are – dehumanizing and intentionally so, stripping away the one tool which allows a wheelchair user real independence. They say – your ability to be a human is contingent on our say-so.
And as always, notice the intersections. It isn’t necessary to be black and a wheelchair user to be victimized, but when race and disability intersect, things get dangerous fast.