Tag Archive for 'police'

Autism encounters with law enforcement

Have you ever fretted about what would happen if someone who has not learned to comply with commands encounters someone who expects immediate compliance? Suppose further that the person who relies on immediate compliance might escalate his or her demands for compliance when the other person, say a child who has behavior problems, does not immediately comply.

In a family or a classroom we might call this a “power struggle.” In the language of Patterson and his colleagues (Patterson, 1982; Patterson & Reid, 1970; Patterson, Reid, & Dishon, 1992), it’s the reciprocal escalation that forms the coercion cycle. When it occurs between an officer of the law and a child with Autism, I’d call it a recipe for disaster, even a nightmare scenario. It’s one about which I’ve written previously, more than once.

Here’s an example of that nightmare come true, as reported by Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity:

Diagnosed as autistic, the sixth-grader was being scolded for misbehavior one day and kicked a trash can at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A police officer assigned to the school witnessed the tantrum, and filed a disorderly conduct charge against the sixth grader in juvenile court.

Just weeks later, in November, Kayleb, who is African-American, disobeyed a new rule — this one just for him — that he wait while other kids left class. The principal sent the same school officer to get him.

“He grabbed me and tried to take me to the office,” said Kayleb, a small, bespectacled boy who enjoys science. “I started pushing him away. He slammed me down, and then he handcuffed me.”

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Officer training for handling incidents

Reporting on US National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Joanne Silberner presented a story about police officers handling incidents in which they encounter people with emotional and behavior disorders who are behaving in ways that appear threatening to the officers. Although her story uses adult cases for illustrations, this topic should also be of interest for youths who have EBD and for the families of children with EBD.

Here’s an excerpt from Ms. Silberner’s report.

It’s a situation no one wants to see: An armed police officer is called because someone is in the throes of a psychotic episode. “How the officer handles that situation can have a significant impact,” says Russell Laine, head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
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Taser incident investigated

Jack Leonard and Richard Winton reported that a California police department will investigate whether an officer who used a taser stun gun to subdue a boy with Autism acted according to police guidelines. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from the boy’s parents. Under the headline “Hawthorne police review use of Taser on middle school student,” Mr. Leonard and Mr. Winton recount the incident from September of 2008 when Officer Vincent Arias tased the 12-year-old boy who had assaulted a teacher and a school security guard.

Lt. Michael Ishii said police were called to Hawthorne Middle School after a student grabbed a counselor in a threatening manner and punched and kicked a security guard who intervened. The boy, described as about 5 feet 7 and 130 to 150 pounds, threatened to kill staff members and continued assaulting the guard, who tried to protect other staffers, Ishii said.

“He bore the brunt of the assault,” Ishii said of the guard, who was knocked to the ground at one point. “He was doing his best to block the kicks and punches.”

Officer Vincent Arias arrived at the school about 11:30 a.m. The boy, whose name was not released, continued behaving violently and kicked Arias in the groin as about 200 students looked on from the school grounds, Ishii said.

School officials called the boy’s adult sister to the site but she was unable to calm him, Ishii said. Arias, he said, fired a hand-held X26 Taser when the boy dashed toward the school’s exit and the area where the other students were in a physical education class.

Link to Mr. Leonard’s and Mr. Winton’s story from the Los Angeles (CA, US) Times. Read previous posts on EBD Blog about use of force by police to subdue children with Autism from 21 September 2007 and 22 August 2006.

FC, sex, false interrogration–yuck

It’s one of those stories I wish hadn’t transpired. On the basis of evidence gained via facilitated communication, police mistakenly charged a man with abusing his daughter and, to compound the problem, they based their case in part on inappropriate interrogation of the man’s son, a boy who has Asperger Syndrome. Oakland County (M, US) prosecutor David Gorcyca dropped the case when he was unable to substantiate the FC-based allegations.

In an editorial 20 March 2008, the Detroit Free Press summarized the case and the terrible consequences to which the family was subjected because of it:
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