Al-right – so, a Black behavior therapist was shot few days ago while he was helping an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). What we know so far and how could this happen.
- The person with ASD wandered from a group home as sadly many do. Wandering and eloping are some of the core symptoms of ASD.
- His behavior therapist went after him to calm him down and bring him back. This is usually the case for all care-takers.
- Some observer thought a man was committing suicide because of where they were at (in the middle of the street). This is not uncommon as many individuals with ASD don’t have safety skills.
- The police is called and an untrained one shows up.
- The behavior therapist tells the officer who he is and about his disabled client.
- The officer who is Hispanic either didn’t hear, didn’t understand autism or didn’t care shoots the behavior therapist.
- Then the therapist is handcuffed as he bleeds on the street. Thanks God – his injury is not life threatening and is recovering now.
- The Miami police chief who is Black and was hired by a Black mayor and a mostly Black city council makes a somewhat scripted statement of we are shocked, we want answers, blah blah.
- Then the Miami police union head says the most disturbing words so far – not kidding. The police was aiming at the autistic person and not the therapist. WTF?
Here is my take, why can’t these police union nut-jobs keep their mouth shut. They always seem to say the most hurtful and ignorant thing about any situation. How is we wanted to shoot the disabled person any better?
So what happens now? Well – for starters, we can’t blame white racism on this one. Everyone with any power in North Miami is a minority from city council to the mayor to the police chief to the shooter who is Hispanic. But we can blame it on ignorance, lack of autism education and training and most of all arrogance about all of this. As an autism Black mother – this is obviously really heartbreaking and disturbing. I think we need a federal legislation mandating and requiring autism education and training for all law enforcement. Currently, we don’ t have that. Most states and cities do some kind of training but it is not comprehensive and they are not required to. North Miami was not required to do autism training and it is unclear if this officer had any so far.
I contacted Autism Society of America President Scott whom I know and he sent me the statement they released. Scott also said they are working with the Autism Soc of Florida to do ASD training for this police dept, though we don’t know to what has been reached now. Additionally, I contacted both Mpls and St. Paul mayors to ask about ASD and police training. Mpls is working on a response, but did say via email that they have allocated funding for devices that would help locate individuals with ASD that wander . St. Paul said they have an officer with a child with ASD – Officer Zink whom I spoke with and was just amazing in how he gets what needs to be done. He said there is a small funding in the big tax bill that Gov. Dayton vetoed for autism training and police officers. Officer Zink stated that Sen. Dziedzic was the one that was pushing this funding. Sen. D represents the district with the largest autism population in Minnesota which is Cedar in Mpls. Additionally, I contacted IACC and asked what they could do about from the federal government side. I heard from one of the members, Dr. Mandell whom I respect and admire so much who said IACC does have a responsibility to recommend and request more training and research into this issue. I agree and I am waiting for more info from IACC. At the federal level, IACC can do the most in terms of services, resources and research.
I also contacted DPS Commissioner Dohman’s office wanting to know what kind of ASD training their highway police go through. They said they have an ASD training for their 600 state troopers. I am waiting to get more details of that training and if we can add multicultural training given the high rate of ASD in minority children in Minn. There is a bill in Congress HR-2302 which requires police training and better oversight for minority communities and those with disabilities. It has not moved much though. Another bill about autism and wandering named after two ASD kids passed the senate recently – Kevin/Avonte legislation. ASAN and other ASD advocates are supporting this. Please call or email your house member to ask to co-sponsor this bill and pass through the house.
I will post as I find out more about this, but what is clear is the need requiring autism training in law enforcement. We can’t always react, we must be proactive here and create laws and policies that address this in Minnesota and nationwide. Autism by itself is extremely challenging, when you add minority especially black boys/men – it is a worry that unless you are a black autism family, you can’t even imagine it.
I thank all of the media attention given to this important issue in particular the reporters from the Miami Herald.
As always – above words do not represent any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate.