WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will decide whether police need to take a person's mental disability into consideration when making arrests.
The justices agreed Tuesday to hear a case involving a decision by San Francisco police to use force against an armed, mentally ill woman resisting arrest.
The city appealed a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which said the Americans with Disabilities Act required police to act less aggressively in an effort to defuse the situation. The city argued that officers must put safety considerations before disability accommodations.
Some other federal appeals courts have given law enforcement officials a wider berth in dealing with armed and violent individuals with disabilities. Recognizing a split among appeals courts, the justices agreed to hear the case next spring.
The case involved a woman with mental illness living in a community-based group home. Her social worker asked police to help detain her for further evaluation at a hospital after she threatened him with a knife. In forcibly arresting her, two police officers shot and wounded the woman rather than taking more time to try to talk her into complying.
"Police officers regularly encounter, and often detain, mentally ill individuals," the city's brief said. It cited a study that showed in medium- and large-sized police departments, 7% of all contacts with the public involved people with mental illnesses.
"When mental illness manifests in unpredictable, violent behavior as it did in this case, officers must make split-second decisions that protect the public and themselves from harm," the city said.
Lawyers for the woman, Teresa Sheehan, argued that police "failed to reasonably accommodate her disability when they forced their way back into her room without taking her mental illness into account and without employing tactics that would have been likely to resolve the situation without injury to her or others."
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Posted by BA Haller at 7:23 PM