November 2, 2021
Director Christopher A. Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigations
US Department of Justice
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535-0001
Dear Director Wray:
I write to you on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency charged with providing advice and recommendations regarding disability policy to the President, Congress, and other federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
For several years, NCD has been examining instances of excessive use of force by law enforcement against people with disabilities, including but not limited to people with mental health disabilities, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and people that are Deaf or hard of hearing. During that time, NCD has also taken note of the FBI’s National Use of Force Data Collection program. We believe that program is a necessary tool used in the effort to combat the excessive use of force by law enforcement against the civilian population, however, the national data collection effort must not omit people with disabilities. NCD is concerned about the lack of an appropriate crisis intervention program question and the lack of a Deaf and hard of hearing sensitivity training question. Both must be included. As the central component of the Use of Force Data Collection program, the questions selected for the questionnaire used in national data collection can help identify those law enforcement organizations that would benefit the most from disability related remedial intervention.
NCD hereby recommends that the FBI take the simple step of adding the following two questions to the program questionnaire that will help the FBI to combat the excessive use of force used against people with disabilities:
- Did the police organization have a program in place to divert calls concerning people with psychiatric or other mental health disabilities, at least where there does not appear to be a serious danger, to non-police crisis response teams?
- Did the police organization have in place a program for Deaf and hard of hearing sensitivity training?
As I am sure you are aware, appropriate crisis intervention programs are critical in deescalating a situation that might involve a person or persons with mental health disabilities or intellectual and developmental disabilities and whom might be in distress. Knowing whether a law enforcement organization does not have an appropriate crisis intervention program in place, and could thus benefit from one, is paramount. Additionally, it is equally important to know whether a police organization already has a Deaf and hard of hearing sensitivity program in place. Certainly, the excessive use of force that was the result of a misunderstanding involving a person or persons that are Deaf or hard of hearing, that could have been avoided through sensitivity training, is data that must be gathered.
Without knowing whether a police organization has a crisis intervention program in place, or whether a police organization provides Deaf and hard of hearing sensitivity training for its officers, the excessive use of force used by a police organization that could have benefitted from such programs might continue undeterred.
NCD strongly encourages the FBI to include these two questions in the questionnaire used in its National Use of Force Data Collection program. In addition, the resulting data should be released to the public with all other data released to the public through this program, accordingly.
I look forward to learning of your thoughts regarding this request. Amged M. Soliman, NCD Senior Attorney Advisor, is our point person on this project. He will call your office on December 2, 2021, to coordinate a date and time for a discussion. If you have any questions or desire to reach me in advance of that call, you can reach me at (202) 272-2004 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Soliman can be reached at email@example.com or 202-731-5910. We look forward to further discussion.
Andrés J. Gallegos
Cc: Amy Blasher, Unit Chief, Crime Statistics Management Unit, CJIS Division