On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, the Justice Department announced that, under a settlement agreement with the United States, the state of Tennessee is launching a training program available to all law enforcement personnel in Tennessee on effective interactions with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. The training, developed by Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), helps law enforcement officers communicate effectively with people who have disabilities and their families in order to improve the safety and effectiveness of those interactions and to enhance community policing efforts. DIDD has posted the training materials on its website and will present the materials at a statewide conference of law enforcement training officers later this month.
DIDD developed the training as part of a court-approved exit plan that resolves long running litigation between the United States and Tennessee concerning care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The lawsuit will continue during DIDD’s performance of other exit plan provisions.
“We applaud the state’s efforts to ensure that law enforcement officers engage safely and effectively with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “This initiative is good for those people, for officers who serve in communities across the state, and for effective law enforcement. Tennessee joins a new national trend in recognizing and preparing for the intersection between law enforcement and people with disabilities. We also recognize and appreciate the continued collaboration of important stakeholders in reaching agreement on this crucial training, including DIDD, People First of Tennessee and the Parent Guardian Associations of Clover Bottom and Greene Valley Developmental Centers.”
The United States brought suit against the state of Tennessee in 1996, concerning conditions of care and the right to care in integrated settings for residents of Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley Developmental Center and Nat T. Winston Center. The state and the United States, along with two interveners, settled the case in 1996 through an agreement that called for both improved conditions within the centers and the integration of residents into community settings. Shortly after the initiation of the suit, the state closed Nat T. Winston Center. The state is now closing Clover Bottom Center and Greene Valley Developmental Centers. In 2015, the court approved an exit plan designed to resolve the litigation by bringing to fruition planned community improvements in respite care, individual support planning and other areas. The exit plan also required that the state develop the law enforcement training discussed above.
For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt.