Deaf Man Violently Assaulted by Police, the Center for Disability Rights Calls for More Robust In-Service Disability Awareness Trainings and Endorses Albany’s Prop 7
By Ayisha Salifu
Recently, media outlets reported on a brutal – and preventable – encounter in Colorado during a routine traffic stop between a Deaf man and police in 2019. Brady Mistic tried to signal to the police that he was Deaf and could not hear or understand any of their verbal commands. The police allegedly interpreted Mistic’s signing as non-compliance. The police then tased Mistic multiple times, slammed him to the ground and arrested him. Mistic subsequently spent the next four months in jail – allegedly without access to an interpreter – before all charges were dropped and he was released.
Unfortunately Brady Mistic’s encounter with the police is not an isolated incident. Police often wrongly interpret Deaf and Hard of Hearing people’s gestures and lack of verbal responses as noncompliance or resisting and respond with brute force. With proper training and oversight, these incidents are preventable.
The Center for Disability Rights calls on police departments, and in New York, the State’s Municipal Law Enforcement Training Council (MLETC), to ensure that police cadets are adequately trained on how to identify, interact and communicate with Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind people. The Center also stresses that Disability Awareness Training cannot be a single module new recruits receive at the police academy. Disability Awareness Training must be infused into an entire officer’s career, similar to weapons qualification.
The Center for Disability Rights also believes that when police misconduct occurs, the public deserves a thorough, independent investigation free from police interference and separate from the police command structure. After years of organizing, voters in CDR’s hometown of Rochester voted for an independent review board to investigate allegations of misconduct by Rochester Police. The measure overwhelmingly passed and the Rochester Police Accountability Board was created. The Rochester Police Accountability Board investigates potential wrongdoing by Rochester police officers, brings change and transparency to the Rochester Police Department, and educates and engages community members in the work of reimagining public safety. A similar proposal is now on the ballot in Albany and CDR stands in solidarity with local activists calling for independent oversight of the Albany Police Department. CDR calls on Albany voters – and particularly Disabled voters in Albany – to vote “yes” on Proposal 7 (‘Prop 7’) on November 2, 2021. If you are an Albany resident, find your polling place or learn more about early voting options here: https://www.albanycounty.com/departments/board-of-elections.
CDR urges community members to vote “yes” on Proposal 7 because Disabled people – and particularly BIPOC Disabled people – are more likely to be killed or brutalized by police. Disabled people experiencing mental health crisis also have disproportionate contact with the police. Proposal 7 will increase police accountability in Albany by strengthening the oversight capabilities of Albany’s Community Police Review Board (CPRB).
If passed, Prop 7 will tie future funding of CPRB to the Albany Police Department’s annual budget. CPRB will be given disciplinary and subpoena power. And CPRB will be able to initiate independent investigations. These are important steps toward dismantling institutionalized ableist and racist structures that permeate law enforcement.
A “Yes on 7” vote will give Disabled people control over how they are policed and recourse if there is misconduct.