Restraint and Death of Disabled Civilians in Texas

The New Statesman reports on deaths in restraint or otherwise in custody of mentally ill civilians in Texas. There’s a new bill pending, the Sandra Bland Act. The paper reports on the bill, but also investigated deaths. Excerpts:

Klessig is one of at least 33 people with histories of mental illness who died after being restrained by police in Texas over the past decade, according to a first-of-its-kind investigation by the American-Statesman of in-custody deaths. Six of those people wielded weapons; the rest were unarmed, records with the Texas Attorney General indicate.


Some of the deaths in police custody also raise serious questions about the way police deal with people struggling with mental illness. In several instances, police appear to have acted contrary to what experts advise — a slower, less confrontational approach to mentally ill people that can prevent violent encounters and death.


State Rep. Garnet Coleman, the Houston Democrat who filed the Sandra Bland Act — named for a mentally ill Illinois woman pulled over in Waller County for a minor infraction and later found dead in her jail cell from an apparent suicide — said the additional training would help officers distinguish between “a person who is in crisis and one who is being aggressive … and resolve the situation in a peaceful manner.”

My take: Such bills will help, but relying on officers to distinguish between disabled and non-disabled civilians will leave many vulnerable. We need core, default, changes.

Here’s the project webpage. I’ll be following it!

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