As Joan Vennochi pointed out in her March 3 Op-ed column “Death over an $11.50 movie ticket,” about in an incident in Maryland, the Disabled Persons Protection Commission in Massachusetts is doing an excellent job working with law-enforcement officials to educate police departments on how to deal with people with disabilities in high-stress situations. It is critical not repeat to the tragedy that occurred in Maryland with the man with Down syndrome who died after what seems a police overreaction to a minor infraction of the law.
Unfortunately, the commission’s ability to carry out its prime mission — saving lives and stopping abuses committed against people with disabilities — is being impaired by budget cuts. Last year the agency received 7,732 reports of abuse, an increase of 16 percent in five years. Yet its staffing, which is critical to conducting investigations that are fundamental to protecting people in danger or to exonerating those who have improper allegations hanging over their heads, is projected to decline by 16 percent from where it was five years ago.
The commission’s preventive and investigative mission must be preserved, and it needs the support of the Patrick administration and the Legislature.