Does Disability Law Impact Police Officer Action?

In the next few days the United State Supreme Court will be considering the case of San Francisco v Sheehan.  The issue in that case is under the Americans With Disabilities Act are police required to take special precautions when trying to arrest armed and violent suspects who are mentally ill.

The case started when police in San Francisco were called when a mentally ill woman (Sheehan) terror subject moves to suppressthreatened to kill her social worker.  Police entered Ms. Sheehan’s room in a group home and shot her five times when she came at them with a knife.

Sheehan sued San Francisco claiming that the police had a duty under the ADA to consider her mental illness and take more steps to avoid a violent confrontation.

This case has supporters on both sides.  Mental health groups think that police should consider mental health of a suspect otherwise there will be unnecessary police shootings.  Law enforcement groups argue that to decide that police must take mental illness  into consideration will place officers and bystanders at unnecessary risk.

The ADA requires that public officials must make “reasonable accommodations” to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities.  The lower courts are split on how to apply the law to police when public safety is at risk.

The United States Supreme Court Decision Could Change Police Behavior

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