Police used a stun gun to subdue 15-year-old Taylor Karras, a young man who has Autism. According to reports, hours after Mr. Karras fled from a counseling session at a regional services center, police were alerted that he was on streets in traffic. Los Angeles (CA, US) Times reporter Jennifer Delson wrote that police representative Jim Amormino said that a deputy used a Taser gun to prevent Mr. Karras from going into traffic and being hit by automobiles.
Amormino said Taylor yelled something when approached by a deputy, then ran across Newport Avenue, causing two cars to swerve. It was then that a deputy shot him with a Taser gun.
The deputy handcuffed the youth to keep him out of traffic, Amormino said.
I cannot tell whether the deputy who subdued Mr. Karras knew that Mr. Karras has a disability. It seems unlikely. I infer from comments by Mr. Karras’ mother that police probably did not know that a youth with Autism was on the streets unaccompanied.
Ms. Delson reported that Mr. Karras’ mother considered the officer’s action “aggressive.” I do not know exactly how this scenario unfolded, but I can understand this concern. I know from my own failures that approaching children and youths with disabilities in an over-powering way can result in flight and other erratic behavior. Of course, for the person asserting power, flight and erratic behavior can elicit escalation of threats and authority assertive behavior.
Just the same, I can also understand the importance of sometimes taking quick and overwhelming action to protect a child. Mr. Amormino claimed that this was the case when the officer found Mr. Karras moving in and out of traffic.
Without additional information, it’s hard to make a reasoned determination of whether the officer should or should not have used the level of force represented by the stun gun. However, it is relatively easy to reiterate a point that I’ve stressed in earlier entries on this blog: Societies deserve to have law enforcement officers who are prepared—explicitly trained to mastery—to recognize and respond appropriately when they encounter our children and youths with disabilities.
Previous posts from EBD Blog on this topic:
- Police training recommended,
- Letter to editors,
- Law enforcement protection, and
- More than police preparation needed.
Coverage of this story in the press:
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Flash of the electrons to Liz Ditz of I Speak of Dreams for alerting me to this story.