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How do we fix this?

5 Feb

A news story popped up in an online group of mine, headline blaring –

“Woman with Asperger’s who touched millions with viral video shot dead by police in Arizona

The story was about a young woman, who once posted a video of her dog comforting her during one of her meltdowns, being shot and killed by police after concerned people called the police because she was threatening suicide. She had a knife, which police say she came after them with. And then she was shot for being a threat.

Sadly, being suicidal and being shot by police is not uncommon.

I don’t know what happened in her apartment, I wasn’t there. What I do know is that many of us with children with cognitive disabilities worry about what happens to them when they’re adults and interacting with authorities. Case in point – a young man with Down Syndrome (an easily recognizable disability) became upset after being asked to leave a theater, ends up dead. Now, that county did do more training on how to deal with the disabled – but that’s just one county in one state. Which was Maryland. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a young woman with Asperger’s is shot and killed during a suicide call.

Something must change. Something must be fixed. Or else, who do we call, as parents, when we need help handling our grown children with mental disabilities? Because for many of us, calling the police isn’t an option, as we’re afraid of what they’ll do. We understand that our child is lashing out because of something in the moment, but aren’t truly violent. Which probably sounds odd to all those outside our secret society. Basically, sometimes our kids go all “fight or flight” on us. They either go down swinging or try to run. It’s basic survival instincts people. We all learn how to control it by a normal age, but those with cognitive disabilities may not.

That said, there has to be a better solution to confronting a suicidal person than a gun. There has to be. I mean, there are tasers, they work really well. Why not have that be first choice? Well, not all departments have them. New Jersey finally cleared them for police use.

But they work, as seen in this news story –

“The woman – who suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – hissed at police and struck one of the officer’s tactical shields with the foot-long blade.

Sgt. John Martinez – a 21-year-veteran – deployed the TASER after ordering the woman to drop the knife.

Martinez credits the department’s newly-acquired TASERs for preventing the use of deadly force that would have been justified.

Camden police began carrying the devices in early May.

“It makes me feel better knowing that I don’t have to go from zero to 60 and take somebody’s life if I have an alternative means,” Sgt. Martinez told the Courier-Post.

See, there’s two people involved in a shooting – the person being shot, and the person doing the shooting. That cop in the news story? He seemed pretty darned thrilled to be able to use a taser and not a gun in this incident. I’m pretty sure most cops would feel the same way.

So why aren’t more embracing this, when knowingly going into a situation where there is a mentally ill or cognitively disabled person involved? Because let me tell you, these stories are getting too common, and will keep getting common. The way our society handles the mentally ill and disabled has always been questionable. But now we expect them all to achieve independence – because we’ve taken most other options away.

There needs to be more options. For our loved ones. For the mentally ill. For the police.

I don’t know how to change it except to be vocal.

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Me and my grandfather, circa 1977. My grandfather was a Chicago police officer, who’s reason for being a police officer was to help people. Because of him, I truly believe that most police officers are out there trying to do a good job. He also taught me how to get out of a ticket when pulled over, because he loved a challenge.

 

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2 Responses to “How do we fix this?”

  1. Cally February 5, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    We need to continue to make more people aware, by all the means we have available. No more wasted futures.

  2. Darcy Pennington Arnold February 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    I heard Ethan Saylor’s mother, Patty, speak. He said as the young man in Maryland who lost his life at the theater. The officers had no idea how to relate to him. She has worked tirelessly at trying to educate the police force.

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