NARPA Conference: Beyond CIT Training

I am flying to DC today for the annual NARPA – National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy – Conference.

I’ll be speaking about police violence and disability, along with two people from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. They will focus on policy and law. I’m going to tell stories about deaths, discuss the cult of compliance, and suggest some ways to reframe how we think about the problem.

Here’s the session writeup.

With increased national attention on violent encounters between law enforcement and people with mental, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities, as exemplified by the tragic deaths of Ethan Saylor, Ezell Ford, Tanisha Anderson, and many others, as well as the City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan case, there are many opportunities and directions for legal advocacy and social justice activism. An ideal policy strategy to reduce lethal outcomes is two-pronged: advocacy for improved crisis response, as well as for increasing the availability and accessibility of community-based crisis prevention and recovery services. While increasing funding for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for police is the most commonly cited policy recommendation, the evidence remains unclear as to whether CIT training actually changes law enforcement officers’ behavior and there are additional significant drawbacks to a CIT-only policy approach. Mobile crisis teams (MCTs) are a promising alternative to help reduce the need for involvement of law enforcement in crisis situations, but there are other drawbacks in terms of variable availability and accessibility of MCTs depending on locale. Panelists will discuss the root causes of increased law enforcement encounters with people with psychiatric and other disabilities — underfunded, under-resourced, community-based systems, and a lack of a social safety net — underlining advocacy strategies to address the problem upstream.

Learning Goals and Objectives:

1. Attain familiarity with the current cases and legal debates regarding law enforcement and persons with disabilities.
2. Understand the limitations of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and CIT-only policy responses.
3. Learn about a range of strategies to address crisis and alternatives to prevent and reduce the need for encounters between law enforcement and persons with disabilities.
4. Describe an ideal policy response to prevent violent and tragic encounters between law enforcement and persons with disabilities.

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