Three Bills In Florida on Police and Disability

There are three new bills working their way through the Florida legislature on policing and disability. One of the interesting things about disability is that even people who refuse to consider most structural reforms to policing and reject the #BlackLivesMatter movement are still willing to push for reforms when it comes to disability.

That’s actually a problem. My argument is that the issues with disability and law enforcement reveal broader issues with policing and society at large. Fixing that is tricky and involves widespread reforms, so instead lawmakers like to do two things:

  1. Provide disability-specific training for cops. Lawrence Carter-Long (my frequent collaborator) and I have taken to calling this the “Special needs cops” approach. It is not meant to be complementary. It’s basically fine but limited in impact.
  2. Less frequently, but worse, is to find a way to label disabled people so that cops can recognize them as disabled and give them extra rights. But no one should have to label themselves in order to receive their basic rights under our laws (from the Constitution to the ADA and beyond).
Florida, it turns out, is doing both right now (h/t Leroy Moore for this link), along with a third bill (which I support) defending the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities when being interrogated.
Here are the bills:

  • CS/CS/SB 936 [my emphasis] – “Citing this act as the “The Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act”; requiring the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue an identification card exhibiting a special designation for a person who has a developmental disability under certain circumstances; requiring a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or another public safety official to make a good faith effort, upon the request of a parent, a guardian, or the individual, to ensure that specified professionals are present at all interviews of an individual diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, etc.”
  • CS/CS/HB 1043 – Interviews of Victims, Suspects, or Defendants with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Designates act “Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act”; requires qualified professional or relative or caretaker of certain individuals to assist law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or other public safety official during interviews in specified circumstances; provides responsibility for payment of related expenses; prohibits failure to have qualified professional, relative, or caretaker present from serving as basis for specified actions; requires agencies to develop & implement appropriate policies & procedures & provide training.
  • SB 1352 – Autism Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers; Requiring the Department of Law Enforcement to establish an online continued employment training component relating to autism spectrum disorder; providing that completion of the training may count toward continued employment instruction requirements, etc.
Previous coverage of my trouble with labeling provisions:

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