I’ve been sitting on this because it hurts my heart as the mother of an autistic daughter. It kills me inside. It makes me angry, sad, and wonder at the human race. It also makes me fearful and gives me those damned little worry lines.
I HATE wrinkles.
I hate it when ridiculous situations like this occur for absolutely no good reason. None at all. There’s no winner, especially when there was either improper training, completely inappropriate biases and prejudices, or both.
When One is Autistic and One is Black How Could the Officer NOT Try to Shoot Them?
Here’s the gist of it, because I assure you, no laws were broken and no one was disobeying any law enforcement.
An autistic man left the day facility with a toy truck, and decided to play with it sitting in the street. Where else do trucks belong, right? In the street. Logical and linear. The man’s therapist from the facility came out to help him back inside without incident. A seemingly good Samaritan called the police to come help, except it wasn’t just to get a disabled man from being injured. It was how there was a dangerous disabled man from the facility had a GUN! and please protect the neighborhood. The therapist immediately puts himself flat on his back, hands in the air, and explains to multiple officers the actual situation, front to back. Except Mr. Happy Trigger decides he HAS TO fire his gun and aimed for the autistic person because hey, why not? He was playing with a toy truck in the middle of the street. That’s super dangerous when he’s not paying attention to anything because you know, it MUST be civil disobedience and worthy of being over. He aims his gun at the autistic man, he says, and he fires his gun three (maybe four) times at the autistic man who’s simply sitting there. A sitting target, mind you. He misses the disabled man and hits the black therapist in the leg. Who the hell knows where the other bullets landed.
Read that part again. The officer was actually aiming for the autistic person because he was playing with a toy truck in the middle of the street. And when the autistic person was ordered to get out of the street and was literally unable to comply, and behaved as if he couldn’t understand or hear the commands because he literally couldn’t, he wasn’t committing civil disobedience, he was behaving as a disabled person because he is disabled, Mr. Happy Trigger fired his gun.
At first he told the man he shot that he didn’t know why he fired the gun and shot him. Later he stated that he felt he personally was in mortal danger, and he needed to shoot the autistic person. He felt he had no choice but to defend himself.
Yes he claims.
There’s a major problem here.
That officer’s trousers are ablaze, and everyone is choking on the damn smoke because that’s what happens when you speak untruths all over the place.
That police department has some serious issues and they need to decide which end is up because either:
- That officer was lying about regarding how he felt his life were in danger from the disabled man, and he fired at him anyway because he’s filth and is a really, really, really bad shot in which case why on God’s green Earth is that man allowed a gun?
- That officer was lying about trying to hit the disabled man and was really aiming for the therapist, in which case he was still lying about feeling as if his life were in danger since the therapist was laying on his back prostrate with his arms in the air and hey, he’s STILL a really bad shot
- That officer was afraid of a black man laying on his back in the street with his arms up, and an autistic man playing with a truck? A truck he knew wasn’t a gun?
If he was telling the truth… are we really that decayed as a society and still that unevolved that our police forces are AFRAID of disabled people that play with toys in the street? Or was it that the disabled man was autistic? Was that the magic word that made the officer afraid for his life? Autism?
I go there because I HAVE TO GO THERE. I go there because I have disabilities, and I go there because I’m a mother to an incredible autistic daughter. My brain has no choice because I don’t live in some fantasy land.
I know what the world is supposed to be like. I know what the Federal Laws are, and State Laws that supplement them and aren’t allowed to override Federal Laws. I know the fight that continues for Civil and Human Rights for disabled people, and the fight to be recognized as fully human versus being seen as Other and Less. I know the nightmares that people face every day in spite of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title 9. I know that people can’t behave as if those Federal Laws fix everything, and society has fully accepted those laws.
I see people all the time who don’t even know that these laws exist, that give them rights to stand up to their parents and police officers and neighbors and landlords and employers. They don’t know that there are protections in place. They believe they’re really second class citizens because that’s how they grew up. And there are people who treat disabled people that way their entire lives.
There are police departments who train their officers that any appearance of disobedience, ignoring, noncompliance is tantamount to breaking a law and they’re allowed to respond to someone who isn’t even a suspect with force. Lethal force. Except lethal force is not supposed to be the go-to behavior.
I know far too many people who say,
“When the police ask you a question or tell you to do something, you do it. You be respectful. You obey no matter what. You obey anything an officer tells you to do at all times no matter what.”
It’s easy to say that, but it’s not how law enforcement is supposed to work. There’s supposed to be leeway. Compliance is not always an option because it’s not always possible.
There’s supposed to be compassion and understanding in spite of the officer’s past experiences of being an officer that excels in service. Having a previously spotless service record doesn’t absolve a public servant of an abominable act towards a marginalized person.
There are different reasons someone may not respond to an officer; there are different reasons someone may have awkward movements and motions. There are reasons someone may appear drunk and disoriented that have nothing to do with drugs and alcohol. Behaviors that might appear “shady” and facial expressions that might “look guilty” are often misread. There are different reasons that it appears someone isn’t obeying an order.
For people with disabilities these things aren’t a matter of choice. They’re a matter of disability. We can’t just shut off disabilities at inconvenient times, and yes, we’re allowed to leave our homes. After all, we don’t want to be a drain on your tax dollars.
Many people are not in the moment for one reason or other due to their disability. Interactions happen on the street when people think the disabled person is “being strange” and. People are paranoid and intolerant, and assume the worst. People are impatient with differences, physical slowness, and seeming intellectual disability. People don’t take care of others feelings, but expect their own to be catered to constantly and so they think that they’re being victimized by being looked at. Or they just notice weakness and take advantage. They steal more easily from disabled people. They make fun more easily. They get disabled people to do inappropriate things more easily making them think they’re going to be friends. Then, if caught, they blame it on the disabled person who has no idea what just happened. They think a toy truck is a dangerous object.
Someone who has particular physical disabilities could appear drunk even if they don’t have a single medication in their system if they’re made to try to walk a straight line. Or speech difficulties due to speech delays can make it difficult to answer questions quickly, or without slurring, in a manner that’s clear and concise. Compassion for none.
This is the kind of nightmare I have as a mother to an autistic daughter that is often unable to follow directions in the immediacy of giving them, especially if they’re presented in a way she doesn’t understand or by a stranger. She often needs things explained a different way than initially presented, but a lot of people who don’t know her are impatient at first. A police officer certainly would be. They would think she’s being impertinent if she thought to ask, “Could you ask that another way?”
As a young woman with disabilities, it turns out she really has no rights at all when it comes to the immediacy of being face with law enforcement if law enforcement doesn’t realize she’s disabled and they’re not keeping the ADA in mind. Her disabilities won’t be accommodated or even considered. If she can’t speak it won’t matter; her being non-verbal won’t matter a single bit. It will be viewed as noncompliance and therefore a danger to someone’s life. That will be justification enough for her to be cuffed or shot. And it will be her fault, of course, for being autistic and therefore dangerous.
It’s not our fault if we have disabilities; mental health, cognitive, intellectual, physical, TBI, chronic pain, hearing, anything. Anything at all. We can’t put our disabilities away into our purses, or into a drawer when we leave. We’re not being rude or thoughtless when we can’t overcome our disabilities like a rockstar.
We can explain as soon as an officer comes to introduce themselves and ask us our name, and it may not matter if they decide ahead of time that we’ve done something shady. They may have decided that a behavior they witnessed was “off” and needed their intervention, but it was actually due to disability. It could be explained to them but they’ve made up their mind. If a command literally… LITERALLY can’t be performed, it doesn’t matter. You’re DISOBEYING.
Do you know how many disabled people have been beaten and killed by officers because officers believed, and didn’t listen to the victims, that they were being disobeyed intentionally? That the disabled person was really a perp because they weren’t… couldn’t comply? There’s no difference between “won’t” and “can’t” because there isn’t any leeway for it.
There are in fact some police departments that care and are training their officers. It depends on the town and the departments. Some believe that the training and funding are worthless.
They have no idea that disabled people are far, far more likely to be bullied than non-disabled people; to be victims of abuse; to be victims of crime; to be involved in incidents with law enforcement. And when involved with law enforcement, disabled people are far, far, far more like to be victims and not the perpetrators. The reason it’s likely a higher percentage is because of abuse by law enforcement and misjudging situations where they assume that the disabled person is the perp because the real perp is manipulating the situation; and the disabled person is in a far weaker position if they’re being abused or the police are the ones exerting power. I want to say the percentages are in the 75% and 80%’s.
These fears are real. These things happen frequently. Yes, in this day and age in 2016. People are not enlightened, and they most often don’t really care. This is why parents fear for the day they pass away before their children and solid services aren’t in place; this is why parents fear when their governors cut funding to services that they federally don’t have the right to cut; why parents fear when siblings have washed their hands of their disabled brother or sister; or there aren’t any siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins willing to help out.
We fear that we won’t be around if our children become entangled in a situation that involves law enforcement in some way, especially if we have disabilities of our own whether we’re still young or as we age. We fear that our children won’t have an advocate at all; won’t have a good enough advocate; won’t know how to advocate for themselves.
It’s hard to trust a law enforcement system, a justice system, and a social system that repeatedly prove that disabled people are worth less than non-disabled people. When funding is removed forcibly and put into nonessential areas, such as bulking up a state official’s salary, it’s hard to trust.
Victim was therapist attempting to defuse situation with autistic patient.
Study Reveals Significant Overlap Between Police Brutality Deaths And Disabilities | ThinkProgress
And insufficient media coverage of these cases isn’t helping.