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CRS works with communities responding to tension and conflict based on disability. CRS works with law enforcement, local and state officials, community groups, civil rights organizations, disability rights organizations, educational institutions, and others to reach a common understanding of the issues surrounding conflicts, including those on the basis of disability, and create sustained methods for preventing and resolving future conflicts. CRS assists communities experiencing disability-based conflict or tension by:

  • Facilitating dialogues with administrators, teachers, and students at schools and universities to address issues impacting students with disabilities, such as bullying and harassment
  • Convening meetings between law enforcement, city officials, and disability advocacy organizations to address tensions following alleged hate crimes and bias incidents on the basis of disability

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work assisting communities experiencing disability-based tension and conflict. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

Case Highlights

In November 2018, CRS services were requested by community members to help mend tensions and strategize for joint solutions following reports that a police officer in southern Michigan was seen on body camera video striking a 13-year-old bi-racial boy with intellectual disabilities who was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. After an investigation of the incident, the police officer involved was suspended and subsequently fired in February 2019. Media reports of the footage and details of the incident in early May 2019 created widespread police-community tensions.

Following the release of the footage, the family of the victim filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit for alleged civil rights violations. Police-community tensions were again heightened as the local southern Michigan community subsequently organized a rally protesting police brutality.

In June 2019, CRS facilitated a discussion with concerned local community leaders including law enforcement officials and city officials. CRS provided best practices and resources, including identifying an expert in use of force policy. The community members agreed that the incident had been properly handled, citing the officer’s removal from the department.

Local city and law enforcement officials requested CRS services after the May 2018 arrest of a 29-year-old African American man with schizophrenia was captured on video and posted to social media. The man’s parents alleged that the video showed excessive use of force by law enforcement due to their son’s disabilities. Marion community members also expressed outrage over the incident. Local officials requested CRS’s services to facilitate dialogues on forming a new Police Advisory Commission, to provide mediation assistance, and to help the city reconstitute its Human Relations Commission.

In November 2018, CRS provided consulting assistance to the city and law enforcement officials on ways to improve police-community relations in the city following the alleged excessive use of force incident. In April 2019, CRS provided mediation services to law enforcement officials, law enforcement affinity organization officials, and a broad-based community organization made up of diverse civic leaders. CRS acted as a neutral third-party mediator throughout the process to facilitate problem-solving discussions and the development of documented agreements. In addition, CRS provided consulting assistance and best practices on reconstituting a Human Relations Commission by ordinance and information on communities facing similar issues for comparison.

In February 2018, concerned citizens in Macomb County, Michigan, alerted CRS to increased tensions in the community following several incidents of alleged abuse of adults and children on the basis of their disabilities. In one instance, a teacher at a local, special needs school allegedly verbally abused two non-verbal, autistic children. A few weeks later, CRS became aware of allegations that employees at a local grocery store harassed a 23-year old autistic man.

CRS began facilitating dialogues hosted by Macomb Arc, a local disability rights organization, and formed a planning group with other local organizations and city, county, law enforcement, and school district officials. With CRS’s assistance, the planning group organized a forum on disabilities for service providers to address the alleged incidents.

In March 2018, Macomb Arc hosted the forum, attended by 30 individuals, which included presentations by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan's Civil Rights Unit and state civil rights officials. Forum participants agreed to continue meeting more frequently and increase communication between their agencies.


Resources for You

Addressing Conflict Based on Disability (PDF)

School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) (PDF)

City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Campus-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (Campus-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Facilitating Meetings Around Community Conflict (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Police-Community Relations Toolkit: Guide to Critical Issues in Policing  (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated December 27, 2023