Supreme Court To Weigh Police Obligations Under ADA

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to hear San Francisco’s appeal of a ruling allowing a mentally ill, knife-wielding woman to sue police for shooting her, a case that could set standards for police treatment of people with disabilities.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in February that a jury ought to decide whether two officers should have waited for backup rather than charging into Teresa Sheehan’s room and shooting her when she lunged at them. The 2-1 ruling reinstated Sheehan’s damage suit, which a federal judge had dismissed.

The nation’s high court granted review of the case last Tuesday and will schedule a hearing for a ruling due by the end of June.

The central issue is how the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires government agencies to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, applies to police conduct toward a person with mental illness who may be violent.

“Police officers deserve clarity concerning their obligations under federal law, and public safety demands it,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office represents the officers, said. “We hope the high court reverses the Ninth Circuit’s mistaken decision and restores reasonableness to this area of the law.”

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