Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

ADA & Public Safety Response

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people who have disabilities are entitled to the same services public safety agencies provide to anyone else. They may not be excluded or segregated from services, be denied services, or otherwise be treated differently than other people.

How does that translate into everyday situations? Remember the March 18, 2006, death of Otto Zehm during a confrontation with the Spokane Police Department? One of the issues the federal government would have examined in this case is whether Officer Karl Thompson individually or the Spokane Police Department institutionally violated Zehm's rights under the ADA. In his statement to investigators, Officer Thompson was recounting his special assignments, and said, "Um, Crisis Intervention Team, which is advanced training in dealing with the mentally ill."

To provide some guidance to law enforcement, the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section has prepared a 12-page Commonly Asked Questions pamphlet. In its Q & A format, it asks and answers the 25 most common questions law enforcement officers have about their duties and responsibilities to conform to the ADA.

However the DoJ does not stop with law enforcement. It notes that one of the most important roles of local government is to protect their citizenry from harm, including helping people prepare for and respond to emergencies. Making local government emergency preparedness and response programs accessible to people with disabilities is a critical part of this responsibility. Making these programs accessible is also required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). To help local governments meet this requirement, the DoJ has published An ADA Guide for Local Governments - Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People With Disabilities.