Wanted: Good Stories about Police and Disability

This is my 100th blog post. Thank you for reading and all your comments and ideas and criticisms.

Today, I need your help. I want some good news.

I am looking for stories about interactions between law enforcement and people with disabilities that go well.

They are hard to find, because such stories, by definition, don’t make the news. But we need these stories as antidotes to the abuses, the brutality, and the deaths. We need to see what it looks like when police do well, extract lessons from these events, publicize them, and pressure the abusers and the ignorant to learn.

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST. I don’t usually ask you to share (although I always like it!), but I’m trying to get this request into disability and law enforcement communities around the country.

More context below.


I’m a little resigned about the chances of getting an impartial and thorough investigation leading to #JusticeForEthan. I’m assuming that most people who read this post will know about the case, but here’s one of my articles about it.

Since I wrote, the Saylors delivered 340,000 signatures to Governor O’Malley, he’s agreed to call for a commission to study police-disability interaction (or, as he puts it, “Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disabilities”), but has said that he is not inclined to call for a new investigation. He wants to look “forward.”

I can’t really explain why. O’Malley isn’t answering questions, but is communicating through statements (watch his staff help him dodge a local news team). Mark Leach writes that the Governor has alluded to a conversation with the pathologist
which, if made public, would give Saylors closure (anyone have a source
on this?). So maybe he just doesn’t believe the police did anything wrong. He’s not alone.

He’s also wrong.

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last two weeks looking at police training. I’ve interviewed trainers. I’ve interviewed Maryland police officials. I think I have a good grasp of how the police were trained, why they responded the way that they did to Ethan, and that they were following procedure as they understood it.

It’s just that the procedure was wrong. Moreover, patience and common sense should not require extra training. More on this in coming days, weeks, and even months (I’m taking a long view here).

My basic thesis is this: You cannot fix a problem you do not understand.
I am not convinced that anyone really understands what happened that
night with Ethan Saylor. Therefore, the commission and new training is
unlikely to fix it until that changes. In the absence of a true impartial investigation, how do we get there?

My current approach is to find the good stories, stories in which police demonstrated awareness, patience and common sense when interacting with a person with an intellectual disability. Stories in which there’s no news because everything went smoothly. These are hard to find, much as it’s hard to hear the dog that doesn’t bark. So I am asking for your help.

Yes, I have calls in to various professionals and have some leads, but I’d really like to harness the power of social media to find stories.

Therefore, dear Readers: Please send me any positive stories about police interactions with people with disabilities, especially (but not exclusively) developmental disabilities.

Send them to lollardfish@gmail.com, message me with them on Facebook, post them here, tag me on twitter, anything. If there is a news story, send a link. If not, please get whatever contact information you have so I can talk to both people with disabilities (and their caregivers) and, ideally, police. I bet I can get police on the record to talk about good stories.

Please share this post. Share is on twitter, on facebook groups, on mailing lists, in your communities.

We need to provide positive models to hold up against Ethan’s death, against the Antonio Martinez beating, against the constant cases of taser abuse against the deaf, autistic, or mentally ill.

Thank you.

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