Black people with disabilities are more likely to be killed by police than white people with disabilities

Black people with disabilities are treated worse than white people with disabilities within the criminal justice system

We have a duty to shine a brighter spotlight on these undeniable truths.

Last month, we sent a letter to Congressional leaders voicing our support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, legislation to reform policing in the U.S.

You can read the entire letter here. 

We’ve shared an excerpt below.

Letter to U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives leadership

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Lorenzo Dean, and others focused the world’s eyes on a repugnant fact: Black Americans are disproportionately killed by police. Very often the people who commit those acts of racist violence are not held accountable.

Disability Rights Oregon vehemently condemns racism, police brutality, and rejects white supremacy. First and foremost, we recognize the humanity of Black Americans and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. And we recognize that Black Americans and people of every race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity are a critical part of the disability community.

The convergence of Blackness and disability puts an individual at enormous risk of becoming a victim of police violence

According to some estimates, nearly half of police killings involve people with disabilities, including Deborah Danner, a 66-year old Black woman with schizophrenia in New York City, Michelle Cusseaux, a 50-year old Black woman who experienced mental illness in Phoenix, Andre Gladen, a 36-year-old Black man killed by police in Portland, Oregon who experienced blindness and mental illness, and Keith Lamont Scott, a Black man with a disability in Charlotte.

All were killed by police in recent years. Black people with disabilities—whether they’re deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, have a mental illness, or experience an intellectual or developmental disability—are at heightened risk of being killed when interacting with law enforcement.

What we’ve witnessed in Oregon

Through Disability Rights Oregon’s criminal justice reform work, we’ve witnessed the glaring racial disparities in whether a person with mental illness who is in crisis gets taken to a hospital for treatment or gets locked inside a jail cell. We’ve seen the need for our community mental health system to do a better job of including people of color and offering culturally informed care.

Our investigative reports pointed to data indicating significant racial disparities across multiple areas in the Multnomah County Detention Center, including how Black people are over-represented in Multnomah County jail’s population. For example, African American people appear almost twice as likely to be disciplined, twice as likely to be subjected to physical force, and almost twice as likely to be “voluntarily” restrained.

Police need clear expectations, policies, and procedures for interacting with people—that is what the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is all about.

Learn more about this legislation here.

Take action

We recognize our duty to shine a brighter spotlight on and call out these truths.

We’re also asking you to take action.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but is stalled in the U.S. Senate. Please write an email to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham using the form on his website and to Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein using the form on her website.

We’ve included a sample message to get you started. We encourage you to customize your email to express why you feel this is important.

Sample Message:

Judiciary Chairman Graham/Judiciary Ranking Member Feinstein: 

We urge you to take up and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This legislation is badly needed to ensure police have clear expectations for how they interact with people with disabilities, especially Black people with disabilities. 


Thank you for taking action to bring these truths to light and advance the cause of equality.


black and white photo of an empty jail cell as seen through the doorway

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