Ultimately, advocates agree that the root of the problem lies in the structure of policing itself.  “Again and again we see police demanding compliance from people who are not in a position to comply,” explained David Perry, a co-author of the aforementioned Ruderman Family Foundation report. “This is not coming out of a lack of specialized training, but out of a base level of policing that is about control.”


The advocates I spoke to support a wide range of solutions, including divesting funds from police forces and investing in community mental health services; funding 24/7 crisis hotlines that aren’t linked to the police; and creating a national mandate to collect data on police misconduct that is disaggregated by disability and other identity markers. While the ultimate goal is to reduce community interactions with law enforcement, in the meantime, police trainings should be created and led by people of color with disabilities.

“There is no liberation for black people if there is no liberation for black disabled people,” said Lewis. “All of our liberation is inextricably linked to the liberation of the next person.”


Reckoning with the full humanity of those lost to police brutality means uplifting all aspects of their identities. Advancing effective political strategies to combat state violence depends upon grappling with its root causes. This includes disability. It’s the least we can do. For Natasha, Deborah, Michelle, Kayla, Sandra, Stephon, Tanisha, and so many more whose names we know, will come to know, and will never know.

Rachel Anspach is a writer, activist and intersectional feminist living in Brooklyn. Her work focuses on combating intersectional marginalization and the erasure of women of color from social justice work, policy and media coverage. Anspach previously served as senior writer/editor at the African-American Policy Forum, where she co-authored “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” Aside from politics and journalism, Anspach is passionate about cats, lipstick, sleep, and her hometown of Chicago.