The Autism Society of America is saddened to learn of the tragic shooting of Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with autism, who was shot and severely injured by Salt Lake Police on Friday, September 4th. The Autism Society is committed to the safety, wellbeing and improved quality of life for the autism community, and continues to pursue an immediate call-to-action for better law enforcement training about autism, and the implementation of de-escalation techniques.
In the case of Linden Cameron, Linden’s mother called SLPD to request a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) to assist her son to the hospital for a mental health emergency. Despite disclosing he had autism and that he did not have a weapon, deadly force was used against a child when an officer fired multiple shots.
“There are times when the police are in dangerous situations and use of measured force may be warranted, but an unarmed, 13-year-old boy in distress does not seem to be a life-threatening situation for police officers,” states Christopher Banks, President and CEO of Autism Society of America. “The Autism Society condemns police violence and abuse of individuals with autism, and our community deserves better-trained officers able to successfully de-escalate situations.”
Community services and supports are essential for individuals and families with autism. When a parent, caretaker, or autistic individual relies on first responders to provide crisis intervention, they should not have to worry whether their lives are in danger from the trained professionals sent to help.
Approximately 1 in 5 young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will interact with a police officer before the age of 21. Individuals with disabilities, including those with autism, are five times more likely to be incarcerated than people without disabilities. Additionally, police interactions lead to more injuries and fatalities within this vulnerable population, largely due to lack of training and the improper use of excessive force.
The Autism Society of America is prepared to help law-enforcement departments to learn how to promote and expand best practices for successful law enforcement interaction with people with disabilities, including training on behaviors such as wandering, different communication styles, and stressful reactions to physical prompts and restraints or environmental stimulation. The Autism Society calls for immediate transparency and accountability from the Salt Lake Police Department, and city officials, and stands by ready to assist with proper training and de-escalation techniques.