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Thursday, January 29, 2015
9:00 am - 11:00 am

San Francisco City Hall-North Light Court
1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place,
San Francisco, California

Join the Disability Organizing Network (Donetwork), the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco (ILRCSF) and many local coalition partners for a rally to protect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We will be rallying in the San Francisco City Hall’s North Light Court while disability advocates meet with City Attorney Dennis Herrera.  Advocates will be asking Mr. Herrera to withdraw the City’s appeal of the Teresa Sheehan case to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Teresa Sheehan is a person with a disability who was shot by police during an arrest in 2008.  If the city’s appeal goes to the SCOTUS it would allow them to rule on whether or not people with disabilities have a right to a reasonable accommodation from the police under the ADA.

Join us to champion the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act and rights of all people with disabilities!  We will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m., so please arrive early.  Also, there are no signs allowed so we are asking folks to engage social media from the rally using the #CareNotKill.

Below is background on the case and talking points:

In 2008, Teresa Sheehan was in the midst of a mental health crisis.  She had locked herself in her second-story room, her home in a residence for people with disabilities.  When her caseworker tried to check on her, she threatened to stab him.  Her caseworker called San Francisco police for help in getting her to the hospital for involuntary treatment.

Police entered the room, Ms. Sheehan yelled at them to leave, said they needed a warrant to enter her home, and then came at them with a kitchen knife.  When the police retreated, Ms. Sheehan closed the door after them and locked it.

Police called for back-up, but instead of waiting for a negotiator and other resources to arrive, they broke down her door with guns drawn.  Ms. Sheehan, predictably, came at them again with her knife, and the police shot her five times.

Nationwide, Ms. Sheehan is one of hundreds of people with psychiatric disabilities shot by police, instead of assisted into treatment.
Ms. Sheehan is one of few, however, who survived and sued.  She argues:
·        The responding police officers knew she was in crisis with a psychiatric disability and needed mental health care.
·        The officers were trained in what to do.
·        They ignored the training and entered her room twice – the second time by force, shouting with guns drawn.
·        The officers should have waited for backup and taken time and patience in interacting with her, as they were taught in their Crisis

Intervention Training, and as a policy on “barricaded suspects” directed.
·        The officers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not following this procedure.

The federal trial court dismissed Ms. Sheehan’s case before trial, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, and said that the City of San Francisco was not entitled to pre-trial dismissal.  (In other words, the Court did not say that she or the City was right or wrong – simply that Ms. Sheehan could continue with her case.)

But, instead of going to trial or sitting down to discuss a settlement, the City of San Francisco has appealed Ms. Sheehan’s case to the Supreme Court of the United States.

San Francisco is arguing – contrary to both medical advice and practical experience – that a reasonable accommodation would not have made any difference in this case, and police should have no obligation to try a reasonable accommodation.  But the crisis intervention strategies are designed for this exact situation.

San Francisco says it is applying the “direct threat” standard, but it is really asking for immunity whenever its officers testify that they perceived a threat.

In a year when we have had the killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, San Francisco is asking the Supreme Court to lower the level of review of police shootings.

Talking Points

  • Available data indicates that about half the people killed by police each year are people with disabilities.
  • The disabilities may be psychiatric, intellectual, neural, or sensory.  But, the fact that the police had insufficient training on how to interact with people with disabilities has led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
  • Police WANT more training.  They WANT more support in dealing with crisis intervention.
  • The answer is not to undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most important federal law that protects people with disabilities.
  • Reasonable accommodations DO work with people in psychiatric crisis – and they keep both the individual and the police safer.
  • By arguing that cases such as Sheehan’s should not even go to trial, it is allowing police to be the ones to decide that they need not provide accommodations.
  • This means even LESS oversight of police violence – at a time when police violence is already out of control.
  • The ADA already has exceptions for situations that would put police or the public in danger.
  • But, in Teresa Sheehan’s case, no one was in danger – until the police provoked a confrontation.
  • The answer is to provide more support and training to police and to communities.
  • The answer is to have better and more oversight of police violence.
  • The answer is to withdraw this dangerous case from the Supreme Court.
  • The City should talk with the disability and civil rights community before taking a case to the Supreme Court that affects our lives so deeply.