Many writers like Becca, more eloquent than I could ever be, have written about Robert Saylor's murder. I am sorry that the Grand Jury didn't see his death as a homicide. But it was. The question is who is at fault? The aide who left him unattended, the police officers that "may" have used excessive force or the theater worker who called THREE security officers?
Over the weekend, I spoke about my outrage that the officers didn't understand they were dealing with a person with diminished understanding. Many of the people I spoke with are 'in the field' police/fire. They offered another perspective. They told me that I couldn't possibly understand what the officers saw. That often people who are out of control maybe on drugs, may have a psychosis that the officers are unaware of, that there could be a host of other factors that impacted the officer's judgement. We do not know what the theater worker told them, when they arrived on scene. We do not know if the aide had informed the theater worker that Robert was a man who had Down syndrome and did not understand that he could not stay in the theater. That she had called his mother and they would get him out of the theater as soon as they could.
I do not know what could have possibly made the officers think they were dealing with anyone other than a person with a disability. I have never responded to an emergency. But what I do not, and will not, understand is how this was an emergency?
We do not know the testimonies of the Grand Jury and what led to the acquittal. But we do know that Robert called for his mommy. How scary could he have been that it took three officers to try to restrain him?
The first responders I spoke with stated they do not have enough training in matters like these. They are trained in dealing with hardened criminals, drug-dealers, wife-beaters, how to respond to victims, sexual harassment, etc...but not on how to deal with a person who may have an intellectual disability. There simply isn't enough funding to go around, right? We are laying off teachers, city workers, police and fire. They may be correct, maybe we need to place the guilt not so much on the off-duty officers, but on their lack of training.
As tax-payers, as parents, as for anyone with any ounce of common sense I think we need to demand training in deescalating a situation with a person who has an intellectual disability. And it should be mandatory. When 1 in every 88 children have autism and 1 in 691 children are born with Down syndrome, it is a good bet that safety officers will come into contact with at minimum one person who has an intellectual disability!
I reached out to our school safety officer and asked her about the training they receive. She told me that as the SRO she keeps current on her training in dealing with youths with autism. However it is not required.
It should be taught in their police and fire academies and be required core training annually.
Today is dedicated to autism awareness. But sadly, I wonder what is the point is raising awareness for Autism, for Down Syndrome, heck for Food Allergies if the most important person responding to an emergency does not have the training to help rather than to harm?
Never again should we hear that they didn't know. Never again should we hear a Robert Saylor crying for his mommy.