In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people. Police officers need training to respond appropriately. When they do not, things get out of hand. A recent incident in Salt Lake City is getting national attention.
When Darlene McDonald read about Salt Lake police officers shooting a 13-year-old autistic boy whose mother had called for help with a mental health episode, she saw herself in the tragic situation.
But when the mother of an autistic young man and member of Salt Lake City’s newly formed Racial Equity in Policing Commission learned that a new policy about enhanced de-escalation tactics went into effect hours after he was shot, she was “floored.”
“So this seemed to me that there was a disconnect, either between what we thought was already in place or what’s not in place,” said McDonald, who chaired Wednesday night’s commission meeting that discussed several specific policies, conducting a survey of Salt Lake officers, police officers in schools and the possibility of pairing officers with commissioners for research purposes.
“Is that something that you could speak to because when I read that article, I almost hit the floor. I was so shocked by that,” McDonald asked.
Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown was listening to the virtual meeting, and he responded to the concerns by letting her know the new policies were refining what already existed.
“With these new policies, we’re going to try to expand upon it, and we’re going to really talk about when we do it, but also report back,” he said. “Again, we’re going to foot-stomp that even more into the culture of our organization.”
He mentioned that officers are recognized for utilizing de-escalation tactics, and a commissioner asked for more insight into what kind of accountability there is for officers who fail to utilize these techniques.