Police Officers and the Americans with Disabilities Act

March 11, 2014

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Are police officers bound by the ADA? Yes. Last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the officers who encounter individuals with disabilities. See Sheehan v. City & County of San Francisco, ___ F.3d ___ (9 th Cir. Cause No. 11-16401 February 21, 2014). In that case, officers were called to a group home to assist with a woman who was suffering from mental illness. However, when officers went to enter her room, the woman reacted violently and threatened the officers with a knife. The officers retreated from her room. Officers entered her residence a second time and proceeded to shoot Ms. Sheehan five or six times. The Court found that although the initial entry into Ms. Sheehan’s home was warranted, a jury could find that their second entry and provoking a nearly fatal confrontation was unreasonable under the circumstances.

However, the Court went further and stated that there was a question about whether the officers reasonably accommodated Ms. Sheehan’s disability during the incident. A disability and exigent circumstances must be taken into account in order to determine whether officers acted reasonably. However, the Court did note a disagreement among the circuits whether the ADA applies to incidents like those involving Ms. Sheehan. Id (citing Hainze v. Richards, 207 F.3d 795 (5th Cir. 2000) for the proposition and holding in that circuit that the ADA does not apply to officers’ on the street responses to disturbances). While there is a disagreement in the law, the court noted at least three (3) other circuits have held that the ADA applies to police officers.

If you have questions concerning your rights or believe your constitutional rights have been violated, contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP today at (317) 857-0160.