The light bars are flashing. There is a cacophony of voices. The responding officers are putting hands on a resistant subject. All hell breaks loose. This could be about any call a cop encounters, but when the call involves a person who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the events itself and its aftermath can get even more difficult for everyone concerned.
“You want to really pay attention to the behaviors,” of persons exhibiting sings of being on the autism spectrum, Susan Hamre recently told me during a videotaped interview that will appear in coming weeks on PoliceOne. Frequent readers of this space will recall that Susan is a friend of PoliceOne — and a friend of police officers — who speaks frequently on the subject of police contacts with ASD subjects. Among the things that Susan reinforced during our discussion at ILEETA 2011 in Wheeling last month, was the fact that ASD subjects tend to react very differently — and sometimes unpredictably — to outside stimuli such as lights and sounds and physical contact. Those light bars, that din of voices, and that hands-on contact are very different for an ASD person than someone who might be considered to be neurotypical.
Eleven-year-old Victor Sleta was a handful for Livonia Police. They caught up with him after he bolted from Riley Elementary School on May second.
Victor is autistic. His mother got police video through a freedom of information request. You can see some of it by watching Bill Gallagher's video report.
When police spotted him, he ran away. They caught and subdued him.
"They pushed me in the ground and handcuffed me," said Victor Sleta. "There were three police cars against one child."
Victor's mother said the police treatment of her son was excessive and he spent 50 minutes in a scout car.
"He felt like an animal being tapped," said Yuiliya Sleta. "As you can see from the video ... he experienced extreme shock, anxiety attack."
The police report indicates staff at the school told officers they did not believe Victor had taken his medications the day of the incident. His mother insists he did.
Victor's mother questioned police preparation for situations like this.
"I think they (are) not prepared for cases like that at all," she said. "They require special training."