#JusticeForEthan and the Election of a Sheriff

I started writing about police violence and disability because of the death of Ethan Saylor. I had read stories like this for years, but when Ethan died, unlike during previous tragedies, I had a few links to media.

I first wrote this piece for The Nation.
I then wrote this widely-read piece for CNN and did a lot of radio after.

I began to study police training in earnest, first wrote the words “cult of compliance,” and have now published repeatedly on this subject. It’s always in Ethan’s memory.

Right now, in Frederick MD, there’s a sheriff’s election about to take place. The men who killed Ethan were deputies. In the wake of his death, the right-wing tea-partier anti-immigrant pro-income-inequality Sheriff Jenkins made it clear that his boys did nothing wrong in his eyes. He got support from the local government, too (this is my piece on the villains of the story).

He’s up for re-election. Karl Bickel is running against him with the full support of the Saylor family and the disability community. Follow this link for a Saylor-family online fundraiser for Bickel.

That’s not actually why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing because Sheriff Jenkins’ brother, Gary Jenkins, put a letter about Ethan Saylor in the local paper, which I will quote in full.

It is unfortunate that Ethan Saylor lost his life in a preventable situation. With that said, I for one am tired of hearing all the theories of who is to blame, especially the security officers (who happened to be off-duty deputies). According to The Frederick News-Post, all witnesses conveyed that security did not act inappropriately or mistreat him in any way.

Some people tried to blame the movie theatre staff, saying they could have let him stay for free. These are mostly young adults doing what they are told and afraid to lose their jobs. Patti Saylor blames Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, again misplaced.

I would suggest Patti go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and face the blame. What was she doing that night so important she could not accompany Ethan to the movie? I know we all need time alone, however, she should have known better to send him out in public with someone ill-equipped to handle him. If she couldn’t go, keep him home in his comfort zone or send him with someone properly trained. According to The News-Post, she directed his care provider to leave him alone in the theater, another mistake for which she is to blame. Her poor choices are to blame and she should accept responsibility.

Then we have Karl Bickel show up with a political agenda and criticize our sheriff over the incident, while he has no clue what happened as he did not bother to read the report, according to an article in the Aug. 28 News-Post (“Saylor endorses Bickel”). Here again, he is trying to capitalize on the death of a young man. Disgusting and shameful behavior; certainly not what I would expect from a candidate for sheriff.

I want to focus on that this paragraph, the one that blames Patti Saylor for her son’s death. To Jenkins, society cannot adapt to people with disabilities; rather, people with disabilities must be kept contained at all times or their parents are to blame for what happens. Patti and her aide made reasonable decisions.

The only people who made unconscionable decisions were the deputies who decided that Ethan’s non-compliance justified throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him, a process during which he asphyxiated. They have never been held accountable for their actions.

These are the stakes in the battle for inclusion. These are the stakes in the battle to support the ADA and its continued implementation. The stakes are high.

Good luck to Karl Bickel.

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