Disability and Policing: Burley’s Bad Knees

I forgot about this story and hadn’t thought about it as a disability-related case until I clicked on this tweet.

Radley Balko writes about the case here. It’s the consequence of a no-knock raid by masked officers in the house of people who had done nothing, they got terrified, and have long been trying to ID the officers who hurt them. They’ve never been allowed to do so. They still aren’t being allowed to do so. Balko writes:

As for the rest of us, are we really ready to just be okay with the idea that masked, heavily armed agents of the government can break down a door, terrify two innocent women, leave without presenting a warrant, their names, their badge numbers or revealing their faces … and get away with it?

So that’s the broad civil liberties takeaway. Here’s the disability context. Caroline had just had back surgery. An officer put a boot in her back. Geraldine had just had knee surgery. An officer stepped on her knees.

When Caroline Burley, now 51, first heard the boom around 5:30 on the evening of June 13, [2007] it sounded like it had come from outside her bedroom window. She rushed to investigate, and as she came out of the room, a man with a gun confronted her, threw her into a wall and then hurled her to the floor. A SWAT team had burst through her front door. Wearing only her nightgown, she asked for mercy. She recently had back surgery, she explained. Instead, one officer, then another kept her close to the floor by putting a boot in her back, according to court filings…

Geraldine, now 70, pleaded with the man to let her move to the floor slowly, explaining to him that she’d had both of her knees replaced. Instead, another officer approached, grabbed her by the face, demanded that she “get the [f–––] on the floor,” then threw her into a table. She tumbled to the ground. At that point, she said later in a deposition, everything turned to “a fire, white and ringing in my ear.” Another officer came up from the basement with her grandson, stepping on her knees in the process. She cried out again in pain.

The #CultOfCompliance teaches that any deviation from absolute instant compliance merits escalation. “Get the fuck on the floor!” says the masked heavily armed officer to the old lady with new knees, as he threw her into a table. Then another officer stepped on her knees.

This happened without consequences for the unknown masked officers.

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