In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act authorized CRS to support communities in responding to tension and conflict based on disability. CRS works with law enforcement professionals, local and state officials, community groups, civil rights organizations, and educational institutions to create sustained methods for preventing and resolving community conflict based on physical and/or cognitive disability. CRS assists communities experiencing disability-based conflict or tension by:
- Facilitating training sessions with law enforcement agencies to share best practices on interacting with community members with cognitive and physical disabilities to ensure successful and respectful future interactions
- Facilitating dialogue between civil rights organizations, community members, local and state officials, and law enforcement professionals about the needs of disabled individuals, and assisting communities’ efforts to improve relations and promote diversity and inclusion
- Providing training and facilitating dialogues with administrators, staff, teachers, and students at educational institutions to increase understanding of individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities and to address bullying issues both inside and outside of educational institutions
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.
Providing facilitated dialogue and consultation services to the community and law enforcement in Memphis, Tennessee
In March 2017, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) requested facilitated dialogue and consultation services from CRS following reports that community groups planned to stage protests amid racial tensions in the community and nationally.
The protestors sought to bring public attention to social injustices in the community, and the possibility of a larger protest was anticipated. In 2016, Memphis experienced a massive protest that resulted in the shutdown of the Hernando de Soto Bridge on Interstate 40. With tensions high in the region, MPD Police Director Michael Rallings requested CRS’s assistance in ensuring that the MPD had a productive dialogue with the community.
CRS provided technical assistance to the MPD as it prepared to host a public forum to address policing concerns expressed by African American community members. The event was designed to give the community an opportunity to provide input on solutions and strategies when interacting with police officers.
The forum took place in July 2017 and approximately 120 community members attended. CRS facilitated a dialogue between the community and the forum panelists, which included members of the MPD, state government, faith-based groups, civil rights organizations, and community youth.