Half of people killed by police suffer from mental disability: Report

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

Inside The Laquan McDonald Shooting

Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, according to a new report, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.

The report, published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability organization, proposes that while police interactions with minorities draw increasing scrutiny, disability and health considerations are still neglected in media coverage and law enforcement policy.

"Police have become the default responders to mental health calls," write the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who analyzed incidents from 2013 to 2015. They propose that "people with psychiatric disabilities" are presumed to be "dangerous to themselves and others" in police interactions.

The report wades directly into the racial debates over policing, noting that while coverage of police brutality cases has understandably "focused on race," that lens can also obscure how disability also factors into police interactions.

Take one of the most discussed recent police brutality cases -- the Chicago Police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, a black teenager killed while acting erratically and holding a knife. Prosecutors took the unusual step of charging an officer with first degree murder, noting McDonald did not pose a lethal threat to the officers who had surrounded him. When video of the shooting was released, it sparked the resignation of Chicago's police chief resigned and national debate over race and policing.

RELATED: More on the LaQuan McDonald case

15 PHOTOS
Laquan McDonald Shooting, Jason Van Dyke
See Gallery
Half of people killed by police suffer from mental disability: Report
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, middle, leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald, right, walks down the street moments before being shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
This undated autopsy diagram provided by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office shows the location of wounds on the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald who was shot by a Chicago Police officer 16 times in 2014. A judge on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 ordered the city to release squad car dashcam video of the shooting. The officer has been stripped of his police powers, but remains at work on desk duty. (Cook County Medical Examiner via AP)
Rev. Jesse Jackson right, hugs Fred Hampton Jr., left, after a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, with first degree murder in the killing. Hampton's father Fred Hampton Sr. was the Illinois chapter President of the Black Panther Party and was shot and killed in 1969. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy appear at a news conference, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Chicago, announcing first-degree murder charges against police officer Jason Van Dyke in the Oct. 24, death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The city then released the dash-cam video of the shooting to media outlets after the news conference. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to the media during a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, with first degree murder in the killing. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

There was far less focus, however, on McDonald's health. According to a later investigation by the Chicago Tribune, McDonald suffered from PTSD and "complex mental health problems."

That reality may be relevant to his conduct the night of his death -- and ways the police might have de-escalated the interaction.

According to law enforcement experts, it is crucial that officers precisely evaluate the problems a suspect may be experiencing.

"Officers are action-oriented people," says Jim Cavanaugh, a former federal agent and MSNBC analyst. "The training always has to be a slow evaluation -- if possible."

If other mechanisms to help people with disabilities or mental illness have failed, Cavanaugh suggested, often its police who end up facing that breakdown in an emergency scenario.

The report also cites the tragic example of Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome who was simply trying to spend a day at the movies when he was killed in 2013.

Saylor had purchased a ticket to see "Zero Dark Thirty," but when he tried to stay in the theater for a second showing of the movie, he got into an altercation with the theater's security.

Saylor was unarmed, and three off-duty Frederick County deputies, working as security guards, restrained and dragged him from the theater until he died of asphyxiation.

Saylor could be heard screaming "mommy, mommy," "it hurts," according to a lawsuit filed by his family. Authorities ruled the death a homicide. A Maryland grand jury declined, however, to indict the officers.

RELATED: More about the Ethan Saylor case

7 PHOTOS
Ethan Saylor
See Gallery
Half of people killed by police suffer from mental disability: Report
Robert Ethan Saylor, in an undated family photo, asphyxiated Jan. 12, 2013, after a confrontation with Frederick County, Md., sheriff's deputies. (AP)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: Photographs of Ethan Saylor as he was growing up adorn a side table in the dining room of Patti Saylor's home Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. Ethan Saylor, a twenty-six year old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: Amid laughter and tears, Patti Saylor, 55, talks about her son, Ethan, Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. Ethan Saylor, a twenty-six year old man with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: Some of the items Ethan Saylor, a twenty-six year old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him, collected are photographed Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: Emma Saylor and her mother, Patti Saylor talk about Ethan Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. Ethan Saylor, a twenty-six year old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images) (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: Emma Saylor, 23, shows the tattoo she got in her brother Ethan's writing Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. Her brother, Ethan, a twenty-six year old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MT. AIRY, MD - JULY 16: The Saylor family from left, Patti,55, Ron, 55, Emma, 23, and Adam, 21, pose for a portrait Tuesday July 16, 2013 in Mt. Airy, MD. Some of Ethan's ashes are in the urn on the right side of the mantel. Ethan Saylor, a twenty-six year old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia after he refused to leave a movie theater and the three off-duty deputies restrained him. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The report compares Saylor's case to several other instances where police used force on non-compliant individuals with Down syndrome. The implication is that using force to address compliance - an option in conventional policing -- is counterproductive without careful attention to a suspect's health or cognitive abilities.

The authors recommend police adopt specific training to address people with disabilities, and they argue that public discussion of police brutality should consider the intersection of disability, class and race in scrutinizing police use of force.

Some police departments are experimenting with new approaches. In August, Phoenix Police launched an entire squad, the Crisis Intervention Team, devoted to responding to emergencies that involve mental health issues.

RELATED: The most violent cities across America

43 PHOTOS
Most dangerous, violent cities in each state
See Gallery
Half of people killed by police suffer from mental disability: Report

43. Honolulu, Hawaii had 11.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

42. Boise, Idaho had 13.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Charles Knowles via Shutterstock)

41. Fargo, North Dakota had 14.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Richard Cummins via Getty Images)

40. Eugene, Oregon had 15.3 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

39. Lincoln, Nebraska had 17.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by John Coletti via Getty Images)

38. Sioux Falls, South Dakota had 20.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

37. Billings, Montana had 21.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Richard Klotz via Getty Images)

36. Norfolk, Virginia had 24.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

35. Providence, Rhode Island had 26.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Yiming Chen via Getty Images)

34. Manchester, New Hampshire had 28.9 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

33. Louisville, Kentucky had 30.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

32. South Bend, Indiana had 32.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Ilene MacDonald via Alamy)

31. Tucson, Arizona had 32.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Dennis Macdonald via Getty Images)

30. North Charleston, South Carolina had 34.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

29. Tacoma, Washington had 36.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Chris Boswell via Getty Images)

28. Salt Lake City, Utah had 38.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

27. Des Moines, Iowa had 38.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

26. Pueblo, Colorado had 41.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(AP Photo)

25. Tulsa, Oklahoma had 41.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

24. New Orleans, Louisiana had 42.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

23. Durham, North Carolina had 42.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

22. Jackson, Mississippi had 43.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images)

21. North Las Vegas, Nevada had 43.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Allan Baxter via Getty Images)

20. Wichita, Kansas had 45.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

19. Albuquerque, New Mexico had 48.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

18. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had 49.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

17. Buffalo, New York had 50.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty)

16. Newark, New Jersey had 50.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

15. Odessa, Texas had 51.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

14. Tallahassee, Florida had 52.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

13. Anchorage, Alaska had 53.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

12. Springfield, Massachusetts had 54.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images)

11. Atlanta, Georgia had 55.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Alamy)

10. Hartford, Connecticut had 55.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images)

9. Cleveland, Ohio had 61.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin had 65.3 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Alamy)

7. Stockton, California had 67.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

6. Baltimore, Maryland had 67.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

5. Rockford, Illinois had 76.3 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Alamy)

4. Birmingham, Alabama had 82.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo by Sean Pavone via Alamy)

3. Detroit, Michigan had 83.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

2. Memphis, Tennessee had 84.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

1. St. Louis, Missouri had 88.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

(Photo via Getty Images)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The initiative grew out of concerns that in Phoenix, roughly one out of ten officer-involved shootings were of suspects with mental illness. There was also intense local outrage after the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michelle Cusseaux, a woman who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Police came to Cusseaux's house to transfer her to a mental health facility, under a court's orders, but when she allegedly charged at an officer with a hammer, he shot her dead.

Many criticized the incident as an avoidable escalation, and an example of a scenario where police need better preparation to address a foreseeable disability emergency.

Most Americans Think Shootings Are Now the Norm

Read Full Story

People are Reading