Thursday, 10 March 2016

POLICE KILLING DISABLED PEOPLE

Shock, horror – report by hacks

The Feuerstein Institute is circulating, without comment, an impressive-looking report from the world of media studies, launched this week by the Ruderman Family Foundation –
Media missing the story: half of all recent high-profile police-related killings are people with disabilities  
The Ruderman Family Foundation released the first Ruderman White Paper today – a groundbreaking, comprehensive study on the topic of police-related violence and media coverage in cases involving a person with a disability – which shockingly reveals that up to half of all people killed by police in the United States are disabled, and that almost all well-known cases of police brutality involve a person with a disability. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated...

This release also indicates –
An estimated 80% of all cases that involve disability are categorized as mental illness' *
The report

The report itself bears a sober, academic-style title. It is written by and directed towards journalists. It recounts some horrid and deplorable events. It include a survey of press reports, and some qualitative data with media links. It is dressed as scholarship – it isn't.

The report is published in full on line:


You should read this report for yourself, before drawing your own conclusions.

(Media links to instances involving wheelchair-users are on page 19)

Language

The report's sponsoring Foundation states in its introduction –
We at the Ruderman Family Foundation want to acknowledge that language use in the context [of] disabilities is an important issue that generates both strong discussion and strong feelings...

(n.p.)

The report's authors do indeed take considerable interest in the use and misuse of language and their report concludes resoundingly –
Most of all we urge reporters to use the word 'disability' in their reporting. Disability carries important legal and cultural connotations about identity, accommodation, and inclusion. Considerable confusion remains in the use of euphemistic phrases like 'differently abled' and 'special needs' that do little more than muddy already murky waters...

(p. 41)
As we advance into the 20th century, disability encapsulates an increasingly powerful set of concepts... [and more]

(p.42)

The report may serve at a useful teaching aid inconsidering how reality can be misrepresented and miscommunicated through what boils down to sloppy thinking, to serve propaganda for an ideoplogy – obscuring realities that merit sharper understandings than this to work towards their resolution. That goes for more than just journalists.

The Feuerstein Institute really ought to be more careful.

___________
The report itself reveals that most of the remainder of the cases referred to in the formal survey relate to what the authors identify as 'Down syndrome/developmental disability'. There is one instance relating to a 'wheelchair user'.

References

Ruderman Family Foundation (2016) Media missing the story: half of all recent high-profile police-related killings are people with disabilities (press release), 8 March

Perry, D. M., Carter-Long, L. (2016) The Ruderman White Paper on media coverage of law enforcement use of force and disability: a media study (2013-2015) and overview (unpublished paper), Ruderman Family Foundation, March

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