Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cops beat man with Down Syndrome

Unconstitutional Use of Force

I recently posted on Google+ and Facebook about how the US and the city of Portland, Oregon have have jointly filed in federal court a proposed court enforceable settlement agreement to remedy constitutional claims that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional uses of force in response to “low-level offenses” against persons with actual or perceived mental illness.

I guess it’s time to do the same in Vista, CA. A deputy pepper-sprayed, beat with a baton and detained a man (after throwing him to the ground with the assistance of another deputy who showed up) in handcuffs who has Down Syndrome. There were witnesses in the area shouting that he had Down Syndrome but that didn’t slow the cops down from beating him and leaving many contusions, scrapes and bruises on him. He was transported to the hospital (still in cuffs I might add) and allowed to go home with his family. The following day, police officers showed up at the family’s place of business and informed them they would be dropping the citation they had against him (they claimed he was acting “suspicious”; he was walking the 5 minute walk to work) and offered them a turkey with stuffing for their Christmas meal as an apology. Yep. A turkey dinner. 

Now, I am not claiming that if a person is being aggressive or a danger to others or themselves, they should not be handcuffed or sprayed just because they have down syndrome or any other form of developmental disability. And again I say, I'm not anti-cop but there is definitely a culture of beat 'em, taze 'em. The fact that the U.S., not a local town or county, has filed against a particular city's police bureau (Portland, OR) indicates there have been egregious violent acts against a vulnerable segment of our population: the mentally ill. This story is just one account that made it into mainstream media. And hardly even that – I saw this only on CNN.

Some questions to ponder:

How about some education for those who are supposed to protect us so that those among us don't need protection from them?
How about instead of locking people up and throwing away the key, we get them some medical support? 
Would you think that would be a better idea if you knew it decreases recidivism? 
How about if it reduced the level of violence of the repeat offenders?

Read about how changing our current prison system could possibly change our society as a whole here.

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