The National Center of Criminal Justice & Disability, The Arc, DOJ, Police & The Community with Kathryn Walker, L A Davis, Program Manager of Justice Initiatives,


PNNscholar1 - Posted on 13 May 2015

Author: 
Leroy Moore

Hello Ms. Walker and , Leigh Ann Davis, Program Manager of Justice Initiatives,

Thanks for answering my Facebook request.  If you don’t know my history I’ve been an activist against police brutality against people with disabilities especially those who are Black since 1980’s.  Almost three years ago I read an article that that national office of Arc received a DOJ grant to create a clearinghouse on police encounters with persons with disabilities.  I always wanted to know what Arc has done especially now with the height of Black Lives Matter movement.  So I know myself and my community would like to know certain things about the program.

Leroy Moore:  Please explain the history of the Arc with the issue of police and people with disabilities?

K Walker, L A Davis: Originally, it was parents of people with I/DD who saw a need to train police officers about how to communicate with people with different types of I/DD. In the 1990s, it was parents who started the movement to educate officers, leading to simple training tools, which led to development of a 3 hour training, more federal projects on victim-related issues and eventually to the development of NCCJD. In 1994 The Arc received funding from DOJ under ADA Title II to create brochures on the topic of providing accommodations to people with disabilities. See our website for a timeline here: http://www.thearc.org/NCCJD/justice-history

Leroy Moore:  How did this issue and this National Resource Center come up with the Arc & was there any outreach with community advocates?

K Walker, L A Davis:
We currently have a list of advisors from other national organizations. Our outreach on the community level comes in the form of our DRTs. DRT stands for Disability Response Team. These are the teams that our training creates. Based in tenants from community based participatory research, our aim is to provide a skeleton training from the national office that can be molded to the needs of individual communities.

Our chapters of The Arc (almost 700 throughout the country) can apply to become a DRT lead. They then recruit law enforcement officers, victim services providers, and attorneys from their area to join the disability response team. Most importantly, the DRT leads are responsible for recruiting self advocates—people with disabilities who have chosen to be outspoken advocates—to help with the training.

The overall role of DRTs is both proactive and reactive. We hope they will identify community specific goals and adapt the training accordingly. Then, DRT members are responsible for getting members of their profession to attend the training. By having both self advocates and other professionals explain disability issues side by side, we hope to bridge gaps between the criminal justice system and the disability community, proactively identifying potential issues, and stopping them before they start.

We also hope that the DRTs will remain intact post-training and serve as a resource to react to bad situations in the criminal justice system when they do inevitably happen.

Specifically to your point about outreach to community advocates, we hope many will attend our DRT events around the country and, as we gain momentum, be able to learn from one another too.

Leroy Moore:  In my experience there is no national numbers/report on police encounters with people with disabilities.  How would the center collect this information and if you do collect these numbers how do you plan to have it accessible to community advocates?

K Walker, L A Davis: Our data collection is limited to cases where people contact us. We then log them in our internal information and referral (I&R) log. We’re happy to share those statistics with community advocates and we would also appreciate community help in reporting and cataloging. NCCJD is a two person team, and we simply can’t know about everything going on around the country. We need community advocates to help us determine the scope of the need for NCCJD to grow to meet the demand for this resource.

Leroy Moore: In my years of advocating on this issue I always hear the same answer, more training.  Is the center looking more broader then just training?

K Walker, L A Davis: I think I answered some of this in the DRT explanation above—we hope that the training we’re doing will also push criminal justice professionals to recognize their ignorant attitudes about people with disabilities and adjust accordingly. We cannot understate the importance of heavy self-advocate involvement in our training endeavors. We hope that our self-advocate trainers will do more than just cover the information in the curriculum. We hope that their interactions with trainees throughout the day will humanize disability in a very practical and real way, leading to better overall outcomes in the criminal justice system.

Leroy Moore:  Once again how is this center reaching out to community groups and advocates who are doing the work in their communities?

K Walker, L A Davis: For now, we are piloting our Pathways to Justice(TM) training program, but our vision is that the training will be very Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) based once completed. Disability Response Team leaders will be responsible for identifying stakeholders in the community and asking them what their priorities are for reform. NCCJD provides a training outline with some core learning objectives, but we hope the community groups and advocates will step in and heavily customize the information to individual localities.

Leroy Moore: Now with Black Lives Matter and my reports saying that most of the police brutality are on Black/Brown disabled and none disabled bodies, how is Arc & this center dealing with race & disability issue especially those of us with developmental disabilities?

K Walker, L A Davis: I think The Arc has room to grow here—and we’re trying to do just that. Understanding the intersection of race and disability has always been important to The Arc and in 2014 we received a grant from the MetLife Foundation to further explore our efficacy at providing support and services that meet the needs of a diverse I/DD community. With this 2 year grant, we have been working with our chapters to understand the challenges they face in their communities and develop strategies that will ensure our services are inclusive. If you or other advocates in your field have suggestions for additional steps we could take, we are happy to collaborate.

Emmitt Thrower/Leroy Moore: Is there a way for a film project around Police Brutality Against People With Disabilities be of use to your mission? Especially if it is put together for community use as a community organizing tool. If the film's goal is to help bring about awareness of the problem and will be utilized as a platform to help bridge the gap between local law enforcement and our community around the issue of Police Brutality and the lack of documentation of Police encounters with our community.  It could be a way to gain more grassroots inclusion into the decision making process which is lacking now. Could Arc utilize a project/film like that  to help towards fulfilling your grant's mission? How can Arc utilize a tool like this if created?

K Walker, L A Davis: While I think a film like that might be outside the scope of our current grant, it is a fantastic idea that I’ll pass up the chain. We have seen how video footage has really impacted how the public has reacted to the incidences of brutality in North Charleston, SC, Baltimore, MD, and Staten Island, NY. And film has helped a prosecutor in Delaware elevate an incident of assault of a person with a disability to a hate crime charge. Film is a powerful tool in making people understand the serious issues we are facing in the criminal justice world.

Leroy Moore: Now that the funding cycle of this grant is coming to an end, how do we, the community read the outcomes?

K Walker, L A Davis: We have some of our publications and our website available here: www.thearc.org/nccjd. We’d be happy to respond to queries about how many people have attended our webinars. We’re still in the process of collecting information around the trainings.

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