Ashley Jacobson, Esq., MA, CRC
Disability Rights Attorney, Disability Assessment Specialist and Counselor, and Advocate
Over the weekend, another startling video emerged of Joshua, a Black protester with a disability in Los Angeles, being brutally physically attacked and forcibly removed from his wheelchair by LAPD (available on my Instagram: @ashleybjacobson, originally seen on the Instagram account: @misanharriman).
Joshua had his disability rights violated by over ten LAPD officers. In the process, officers are seen throwing his expensive wheelchair violently against the ground, immediately damaging the chair, causing the wheels to fall off, bending and and scratching the chair itself.
Let me be clear, as a disability rights lawyer and advocate living with physical disability–People with disabilities are entitled to disability rights even when they are stopped, questioned, investigated, detained, searched, arrested, incarcerated, and prosecuted in court by police and state attorneys.
The disability community is the largest minority group in the world. We are strong when we demand change together. As such, I have compiled a few action steps we can all take to hold all officers (and their leaders who perpetuate a culture of ableism) accountable.
1) Report the incident in several ways. I’ll start with the wording itself. If you are unsure how to write the email, here is a template I made. I indicate several areas where you can choose or change the language based on your preferences or the message you want to convey, because otherwise officials will filter all messages with the same copied text to their email junk folder or trash bin–one way they get around reading such complaints. Try switching things up instead of just choosing the first choice every time–we are trying to avoid everyone sending the same email.
If you are unable to use the template or want help writing an email, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will type up the email language for you, email it to you, and then all you have to do is copy and paste it to your email when you send it to the individuals I list below.
Here is the template (you can choose which sentences and wordings you’d like to use):
My name is [enter your name here]. I am a person [choose one or more: living with disability / caring for a person with a disability / who has a loved one with a disability]. During a peaceful [choose one: protest / demonstration / march / assembly], over ten Los Angeles police officers were caught on film violating the disability rights of a man named Joshua. He is [choose one: entitled to / afforded] these rights under several disability rights laws in the United States, including the Americans with Disabilities Act [optional: ADA] and Rehabilitation Act [optional to add here: of 1973]. Joshua was, [optional: and all people with disabilities are,] entitled to disability rights when [choose one or more: stopped, detained, questioned, investigated, arrested, booked, or incarcerated].
Disability rights leaders and experts [choose one or more: warn / know / caution / advise], any and all officers who violated Joshua’s rights [optional: and the rights of others in the disability community] are financial liabilities to your department, city, and state as [choose one: qualified immunity / typical legal deference given to police] does not prevent such officers from being successfully sued under disability rights laws as recently [choose one: affirmed / decided / held] by the courts.
I demand that all officers be [choose one or more: immediately / swiftly / quickly] identified, fired with loss of any pension, and fined for [choose one or more: replacing / repairing / fixing / resolving any issues with] Joshua’s wheelchair.
[Optional: Any action or inaction by leaders pertaining to this massive rights violation will result in the loss of votes and public support by the largest minority in your jurisdiction—the disability community.]
[Optional: Choosing to ignore this issue makes you complicit.]
2) After you’ve written or received the text to send with your complaint, follow one or more of the methods below by filing a complaint with the police:
“Any person who believes they were wrongfully accused of a crime, unjustly injured, or
experienced misconduct on the part of an officer can make a complaint with the Department’s Internal Affairs Group hotline at 1-800-339-6868. For complaints specifically related to the protests you can email ProtestResponse2020@lapd.online . Individuals can also make a complaint through the Office of the Inspector General at 213 893 6400 or [email] to:email@example.com if email is preferred.
How to File a Complaint
If you would like to file a complaint about an employee of the Los Angeles Police Department, please follow the instructions below.
All complaints of misconduct are accepted, including those made anonymously. You may use one of the complaint forms that can be found in multiple languages at the bottom of this page, though the form is not required. Complaints may be filed with either the OIG or LAPD.
To file a complaint with the OIG, you may:
• Visit our office in person. We are in the World Trade Center, in Downtown Los
Angeles. Address: 350 S. Figueroa Street; Suite 1002; Los Angeles, CA 90071
• Call the OIG.
Phone: (213) 893-6400
TTY: (213) 482-7002
• Send us a Fax.
Fax numbers: (213) 687-7473; (213) 687-7487; or (213) 687-7493
• Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Send us a message via our mobile application, which is available via both Apple
Store and Google Play.
• Mail us a letter at the office address designated above.
• Request to speak with OIG staff at a public meeting of the Los Angeles Board
of Police Commissioners.
• Send us a message via our Facebook page.
• Send us a message via our Twitter profile.
• Comment on our Google Business profile.
To file a complaint with LAPD, you may:
• Call the LAPD’s complaint hotline: 1-800-339-6868TDD 213-978-3500 or send
email to LAPDCMS@LAPD.ONLINE
• Ask to speak to a supervisor at any LAPD station.
• Visit the Internal Affairs website or click on the Complaint Form links below.
• Visit any LAPD Community Police Station and speak directly with an LAPD
supervisor, regardless of where the incident occurred.
Additional Complaint Process Information:
You may also contact your local council district office to file a complaint. Complaints of
misconduct are investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs Group. The Office of the Inspector General can oversee and review all complaint investigations.”
ALSO email the California representatives in Congress. Email the mayors and Governor. Email the LA City Council. If you are a voter in their district, let them know. They work for you. Make them listen to you. Show them you’ll remember at the next election if they ignore this.
You can bet I will be doing all of the above. We need to make meaningful noise here. Without our advocacy, they will assume we deserve this abuse in the future–even though it clearly is shown to violate disability rights laws.
3) Find ways to speak out on your own social media pages about Joshua’s mistreatment (and mistreatment of other people in our community). I have been sharing resources, videos, and action steps. You can use those, and you have my permission to share them.
4) Keep an eye out for the verified and legitimate gofundme accounts of protesters with disabilities. They need help paying for bail, equipment repair, and medical bills following protests. Some may ask, “Why go to the protests if it’s so risky?” People who want to create change and support the equality of Black people, including Black people with disabilities–can do so in a variety of ways. Think of how brave it is though, for those who choose to go to the inaccessible protests. This is not the only way to help, but it should be just as much an option for a person with a disability as it is for an able-bodied citizen. I’ll share info on my social media pages (@ashleybjacobson on Instagram, @legallyabled on Twitter) when I find them.
If you need help with anything, let me know. Email me at email@example.com. Message me on Instagram. Comment on any posts with questions. I’d hate for you not to act because something is in your way. Let me know if I can help remove any barriers in your advocacy process.