You might have seen a video of a police officer wounding a man, who is a caregiver for another man who is autistic. At the time he was shot, the caregiver was lying prone, with his hands raised in the air. Luckily, the gunshot was only in his leg, and he reportedly has already been released from the hospital. That incident occurred in North Miami, here in South Florida, and it was “filmed” by a bystander on his phone.
The 27 year-old patient wandered out of a neighborhood group home and decided to sit down in the middle of an intersection to play with a toy truck. According to the National Autism Association, profoundly autistic people cannot process verbal commands from police, and they often cannot respond to verbal commands either.
An additional reason for concern in this case is the number of recent shootings of black men by police officers, for whatever reason. Although the unnamed autistic man is apparently white Hispanic, the caregiver, Charles Kinsey, is black. Luckily, this situation did not escalate any further.
Several years back, there had been several incidents where police had approached persons with various disabilities. In one instance, a man with Down Syndrome was Tasered and, in another, an unruly, but severely autistic man, died when his heart stopped after police hog-tied him. Miami-Dade County, however, chose to address this ongoing problem with education.
The County now offers a course in dealing with autistic persons, which is taught by two local police officers who have autistic children themselves. Additionally, the executive director of the Autistic Society of Florida assists in these classes administering these classes. The National Autism Association, however, is calling for Federal funding for such courses nationwide, and it has also recommended that caregivers take autistic people to visit local police departments.
As with many confusing inter-personal situations, some understanding, as well as some direct familiarity, might keep minor incidents from becoming just another statistic on the nightly news/