DRM has issued a report on the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s Behavior Support Services, describing numerous problems and urging a series of reforms. The comprehensive report, authored by Managing Attorney Nancy Pineles, can be accessed HERE.
DRM Executive Director, Virginia Knowlton Marcus, appeared on the Marc Steiner Show to discuss the disability aspects of DOJ’s Letter of Findings regarding the Baltimore City Police Department.
Read DRM’s joint press release with NDRN on DOJ’s Findings of its investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department.
See DOJ’s full report at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883366/download
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and its member organization, Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), are pleased to see the treatment of individuals with disabilities by law enforcement officers included throughout the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s (CRD) recent investigation into the conduct of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD). NDRN and DRM support the CRD’s efforts to ensure that government agencies act in a manner that protects the rights of community members with disabilities, and complies with the rule of law. Through their work representing individuals with disabilities, the nationwide network of Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies often learn of cases involving negative and sometimes extremely dangerous interactions between people with disabilities and police. These interactions often include individuals with mental health disabilities, as well as individuals with sensory, intellectual, developmental and other types of disabilities; and disproportionately affect additional specific communities, particularly people of color.
The CRD report calls for improvement in the following key areas:
- The failure of the BPD to provide basic reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities.
- The failure of the BPD to use common de-escalation techniques on individuals in crisis, resulting in the use of excessive force (e.g. “drive stun mode”), arrest, unnecessary hospitalization, and/or death.
- Deficient training, oversight, and policies to protect individuals with the types of disabilities that officers are likely to encounter in their day-to-day work.
- Lack of collaboration with community partners who may assist BPD in serving individuals with disabilities, thereby avoiding or limiting the need for police intervention.
Negative interactions with police have long been a concern of NDRN and the P&A Network. We hope that the independent voices of individuals with disabilities will be heard clearly, and their needs will stay at the forefront throughout the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
See the full report at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883366/download
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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.
Disability Rights Maryland (formerly Maryland Disability Law Center), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy organization charged with advancing and defending the rights of Marylanders with all types of disabilities, of all ages, statewide.
As advocates for youth and families in Baltimore City, the Coalition to Reform School Discipline thanks the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its thorough investigation and applauds its recommendations for sweeping reforms in response to overwhelming evidence of decades of constitutional violations of citizens’ rights by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) that significantly impact African-American communities and individuals with disabilities. While the DOJ report focuses on BPD, we are especially troubled by findings that the City has used the Baltimore School Police as an auxiliary of BPD and that there is a clear lack of coordination between the two forces. This raises questions about whether school resources allocated to school police are being used to support the role of BPD. City Schools’ resources would be better spent on academic services, restorative practices, and ongoing professional development involving administrators, teachers, and school police.
DOJ further found that the BPD policies, procedures, training, and oversight are significantly deficient, contributing to unconstitutional and illegal practices, including the excessive use of force against young people. At the moment, Baltimore School Police have no policies, limited training relevant to working with youth, and insufficient oversight. The concerns in the DOJ report apply to school police, and it should trouble parents that City Schools is moving forward with redeploying officers into schools without proper policies in place. The Coalition to Reform School Discipline has expressed concerns about the lack of policies, procedures and proper oversight for the Baltimore School Police for nearly two years. We believe that clear policies and training governing how and when school police interact with students, school employees and the community are critical. We encourage City Schools to move swiftly to implement comprehensive policies and procedures with input from the community, students and advocates that ensure that students’ rights are protected.
We acknowledge, and are hopeful, about the willingness of Acting School Police Chief Hamm to tackle these difficult issues. We are encouraged that school based arrests declined last year; however, there is significant work that still needs to be done to ensure that City Schools provides safe and positive learning environments for all students.
DRM has filed a federal law suit against the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County (HAPGC) alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act, Fair Housing Act Amendments, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit was filed by five public housing residents in Prince George’s County who have consistently requested wheelchair accessible housing units from HAPGC. HAPGC regularly failed to respond to the resident requests and transferred them from one inaccessible unit to another inaccessible unit. The residents continue to live in inaccessible housing units.
“I was homeless in 2010 and applied to public housing in Prince George’s County because I thought they would have accessible units and accommodations to offer me. I have never been offered an accessible unit. I cannot use my wheelchair in the bathroom and there are no grab bars in the bathroom for me to us so that I can safely transfer to my commode,” said one of the Plaintiffs, Alonzo Watts about why he is filing the case.
Another Plaintiff, Andre Phillips states, “I am just trying to have an accessible unit like I requested in 2013. I can’t do basic things in my unit. My bathroom is so small that I have to hurt myself just to get in there to do daily stuff like use the bathroom.”
“HAPGC has long acknowledged the lack of accessible public housing in its federal reporting requirements. HAPGC just hasn’t done anything about the lack of accessible housing and our clients have had to suffer because of it,” attorney David Prater said about the case.
By federal law, public housing should have accessible housing to offer to low-income people with disabilities. Disability Rights Maryland encourages other public housing residents who have been denied accessible housing or have not otherwise had their needs addressed by HAPGC to come forward by calling our office at 410-727-6352.
The lawsuit alleges that HAPGC has failed to maintain accessible public housing units in accordance with federal regulation, has failed to maintain policies that addresses the needs of persons with disabilities in public housing in Prince George’s County, and has offered housing on discriminatory terms to persons with disabilities.
The lawsuit was filed on the heels of 26th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the suit alleges HAPGC violated.