Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cops, And Rent-A-Cops Gone Wild

news topic icon
Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press - June 16, 2014

Thank God this situation didn’t turn out as horribly for Wendy Kozma, as a similar scenario did for Ethan Saylor ... though it was bad enough. From the description of the scene at Walmart, it sounds like it could have been an almost exact repeat.

I’m not sure there are any great new lessons to learn here … just the same simple lessons that apparently aren’t being learned:

- Yes, some people with intellectual disabilities react differently to upsetting, unfamiliar situations than other people, sometimes in ways that can be baffling and even frightening. Understanding that as a general principle, however can drain away most of the fear, leaving room for conscious thought and compassion.

- People in charge of public safety and security … both police and private security … need to keep their brains in gear and not go on automatic force mode, especially when situations are tense and about to spin out of control.

- They also need to listen to the people they are dealing with, and to people with them, for clues on how to resolve situations. They especially need to resist the tendency to dismiss people who they might view as marginal or unreliable … such as children, old people (like Ms. Kozma’s grandmother), and young women (like Ethan Saylor’s aide).

- Companies that hire private security need to provide better training, and probably watch out more carefully for cop-wannabes who think narrowly and enjoy exercising authority just a little too much.

- There must be some way for companies and police agencies to apologize for obvious screwups without guaranteeing massive retaliatory lawsuits. Apologies on the spot would probably prevent a host of problems and trauma.

Best Article On Being An "Ally"

Heather Yaden, Applied Sentience - June 13, 2014

This article should be required reading for anyone who wants to work in the Disability Rights or Independent Living fields. Or, for that matter, in Special Education, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation, or Long Term Care.

It is hard to redirect and appropriately channel the unformed enthusiasm and sense of urgency of people who get all fired up to “help” people with disabilities … without dousing their enthusiasm or shaming them. This article, I think, mostly succeeds. I don’t like the undertone of guilt and shame, but in the end Yaden’s emphasis on humility gets the right message across. If you really want to help a group of oppressed and disadvantaged people, you can’t allow your work to become all about you.

The other thing I would add is that people with disabilities in the disability field are just as prone … if not more … to egotism and falling in love with their own ideas. Just because we are part of the oppressed group we work for, doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of drifting into a messiah complex. In fact, the risk may be even greater for us. Those of us who work in the field ... as activists, organizers, and counselors … can become overly impressed with our own path to empowerment, and push our models and ideas on our fellow disabled people, discounting their experiences just as thoughtlessly as “wanna-be” non-disabled allies.

Plus, you have to constantly check and question yourself. I “get” the ideas in this article, and have for a long time. However, my intellectual understanding hasn’t always prevented me from pushing my own agenda, privileging my own ideas, or griping about the inadequacies of the “consumers” who failed to jump on my brilliant bandwagon.