Police brutality leads to death of young man with down syndrome
Robert Saylor really, really liked the movie Zero Dark Thirty. So much so, that he refused to leave the theatre while his support worker was grabbing the car. Three off-duty Sheriff’s deputies, working as mall security, asked him to leave.
Saylor shouted and physically protested. The deputies responded by applying 3 sets of handcuffs and placing him on his stomach for “one to two minutes.” By the time they noticed Saylor was in distress, it was too late. Robert Saylor had died from asphyxiation.
Robert Saylor died on the floor of a theatre because he wanted to see a movie twice. That’s chilling enough. Reading further into the circumstances made my gut twist. One quote stands about the rest.
That training needs to change! Support workers are often called upon to help people understand things that may not come intuitively to them. Things like having to pay to see a movie twice. Everyone’s support needs are unique. Not making assumptions, not judging, and staying calm are very important when supporting someone with an intellectual disability. How people are educated to respond when a person doesn’t understand can make a difference between life and death. That doesn’t apply to just people with intellectual disabilities, that applies to humanity.
The Governor of Maryland has already put together a committee to see that reforms are put into place.
Better late than never. They should be implementing something akin to Nonviolent Crisis Intervention. For those of us in the field, it’s as basic as apple pie, a tried and true method of educating people to de-escalate situations like Robert Saylor’s. It’s internationally recognized with resources and educators online.
Training of this type should be viewed as essential; a core part of police work. It’s a shame it’s taken this long to implement what is recognized as some of the most basic training in the community living world.
Particularly when police are required to deal with so many vulnerable people in our community. Not just people with disabilities, but those suffering from addictions, poverty, and gang issues. Police should be equipped to with the best possible education by government to fulfill their very difficult jobs.
I applaud the governor taking action, I’m sorry it took a man’s death to do it.
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