Stimming with string is extremely dangerous:
A report from the Ruderman Family Foundation found the following:
Disability is the missing word in media coverage of police violence.
Disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. Disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated. The media is ignoring the disability component of these stories, or, worse, is telling them in ways that intensify stigma and ableism.
When we leave disability out of the conversation or only consider it as an individual medical problem, we miss the ways in which disability intersects with other factors that often lead to police violence. Conversely, when we include disability at the intersection of parallel social issues, we come to understand the issues better, and new solutions emerge.
Disability intersects with other factors such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, to magnify degrees of marginalization and increase the risk of violence. When the media ignores or mishandles a major factor, as we contend they generally do with disability, it becomes harder to effect change.
This white paper focuses on the three years of media coverage of police violence and disability since the death of a young man with Down syndrome, named Ethan Saylor, in January 2013. After reviewing media coverage of eight selected cases of police violence against individuals with disabilities, the paper reveals the following patterns in the overall data:
- Disability goes unmentioned or is listed as an attribute without context.
- An impairment is used to evoke pity or sympathy for the victim.
- A medical condition or “mental illness” is used to blame victims for their deaths.
- In rare instances, we have identified thoughtful examinations of disability from within its social context that reveal the intersecting forces that lead to dangerous use-of-force incidents. Such stories point the way to better models for policing in the future.
We conclude by proposing best practices for reporting on disability and police violence.
Another report from the same foundation found:
Unlike people with visible or apparent disabilities, people with non-apparent disabilities often don’t receive the accommodations guaranteed to them under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Due to the “invisible” nature of disabilities like autism, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, dyslexia, or any number of mental illnesses, some behaviors that are a direct result of these disabilities are often seen in school contexts as laziness, inattention, disrespect or defiance. Instead of receiving legally due accommodations for their disabilities, students with non-apparent disabilities are disproportionately labelled problem students.
In combination with zero tolerance policies at schools, these students are suspended at disproportionately high rates and ultimately criminalized. The result of this systemic discrimination is that over half of our incarcerated population has a mental illness and another 19-31% have a non-apparent disability, like cognitive or learning disabilities. Our jail and prison systems are effectively warehouses for people with non-apparent disabilities. This problematization and criminalization starts very young—even in preschool.
It’s not just police. Anyone in any position of authority is likely to grossly misinterpret autistic behavior and then feel justified in doing something barbaric. Barbarism is how normal people cope with self-created anxieties. The kid was just stimming…
As a graduate of Arizona’s Drug Evaluation and Classification program, Officer Grossman is certified as a “drug recognition expert.” But no one had trained him to recognize one of the classic signs of autism: the repetitive movements that autistic people rely on to manage their anxiety in stressful situations, known as self-stimulation or “stimming.” That’s what Connor was doing with the string when Officer Grossman noticed him while he was on patrol…
Connor Leibel’s mother filed a complaint about her son’s treatment that resulted in an internal investigation by the Buckeye Police Department. It not only cleared Officer Grossman but also came to the unsatisfying conclusion that because the autism label covers a large spectrum of symptoms and behaviors it “would be very difficult to teach officers to recognize them all.”
That’s certainly true: Another way to frame the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that one in 68 American schoolchildren is on the spectrum is that autistic people make up a large and extremely diverse minority population. But police officers do not have to become experts in every aspect of autism to learn how to recognize people on the spectrum and treat them with respect.
Last year I attended a presentation by Rob Zink, an officer from the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota, who started the Cop Autism Response Education Project to train his fellow officers how to interact with autistic people, inspired by his experience of having two sons on the spectrum. Officer Zink pointed out that sirens and flashing lights alone can be catastrophic sensory overload for people with autism, while a calm voice and a reassuring demeanor can go a long way toward de-escalating a tense confrontation.
He also stressed that law enforcement personnel should not expect autistic people to behave in the ways that non-autistic people do. For example, officers should not regard a refusal to look them in the eyes as a sign of guilt, as Officer Grossman did with Connor Leibel. In fact, many autistic people find it easier to interpret spoken instructions if they’re not compelled to simultaneously look the speaker in the eyes.
Similar programs are underway in several police departments across the country and around the world, but they are still too few and far between. The scarcity of these programs is a sad legacy of the decades when autism was mistakenly believed to be a rare condition, and many autistic people lived out their lives in state-run institutions.
What this shows is that cops have no good-faith interest in doing their jobs “correctly” as they appear on paper.
Recognition is a signal detection problem. Accuracy, i.e., doing it right, requires keeping false positives and false negatives to a minimum. There are many, many reasons a person’s behavior might look bad to a police officer without actually being their business. My stereotypy might look like I’m on stimulants. My light sensitivity might look like I’m tripping. Being anxious because cops are allowed to kill me with impunity will look like guilt to a cop, because cops have no insight into how they come across to other people. Deaf people will ignore verbal commands, etc.
A police officer that genuinely values public safety would be horrified at the possibility of fucking with someone’s medical problem, i.e., adversely impacting public health. They’re supposed to be partners with other first-responders in facilitating public health. Thus, they would have a strong interest in reducing false positives.
Here, what they’ve done is said “We’ll have a ton of false positives and fuck you.” That is, they don’t give a fuck if their policies will predictably result in hurting innocent people. If that happens, they can always write a victim-blaming report to justify anything and exonerate themselves. If a cop hurts you, you’re guilty. The (white) public accepts this. If the cops are hurting Others, everything is working as intended and they actually feel better. What’s the difference if the cops had a procedurally-correct reason for suspecting someone of a crime? The public knows they’re guilty, because to be different is to be guilty. The concept of multiple explanations for the same behavior is too advanced for many people, and the public shares the cops’ fear of everything under the fucking Sun.
Honestly, every time a cop complains about fearing for their safety as a justification for hurting people, they should be masculinity-shamed about it for the rest of their life. You signed up to fight the bad guys on the front lines and now you’re a pussy? GTFO. Warrior my ass. The concept of cops is that they’re supposed to be doing something mere civilians aren’t brave enough to do. If they’re afraid in these scenarios to the point of losing control like little bitches, they shouldn’t even be there.
The public should be outraged not only at their lack of empathy, but their lack of balls. Instead, the public sympathizes with the fear. Cops are accepted for having the emotional reactions of a white guy who’s grown up in a racist environment, but has never met a black person IRL. It takes too much theory-of-mind for the public to expect cops to react differently than themselves.
Everybody knows the average white guy would shoot niggers without much hesitation. We’re supposed to pretend the average white guy is colorblind, though, so cops should be expected to have more restraint.
Of course it’s not like that because it’s working as intended and the point of police is to brutalize minorities on behalf of normal people without the balls to do it themselves.
It’s not very helpful asking white people directly about race and trying to read the tea leaves. It’s better to ask how they feel about police:
Any fair-minded observation can see that cops are essentially middle-school bullies. In middle school, most people didn’t do anything about bullies. Adulthood is the same.
The political reality is that fucking over black people is a solid bipartisan consensus.