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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Another Bad Encounter with Law Enforcement

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

Alene Tchekmedyian at LAT
When Isaias Cervantes spiraled into a mental health crisis last week, his family called 911. A sister and a therapist who works with Cervantes told the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who responded that the agitated 25-year-old had autism and was hard of hearing, according to another sister and a lawyer for the family.

Despite the alleged warnings, the encounter quickly escalated and ended minutes later when a deputy shot Cervantes, causing injuries that could leave him paralyzed.

“Knowing he may not walk, it’s just not right,” said a sister, Yajaira Cervantes. “I wish that they would be more trained officers that know how to deal with disabilities.”

She and a group of demonstrators gathered outside the Hall of Justice downtown on Monday afternoon, some carrying signs that said “Justice for Isaias.”

The Cudahy City Council on Tuesday called for independent investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the California attorney general. The council also requested that the deputies involved in the shooting be removed from patrol duties in the city.

Judy Mark, who runs Disability Voices United, a group that advocates for people with disabilities, said she also helps train police officers on how to approach people with mental disabilities. She said that after the shooting of Cervantes, she has decided she no longer can participate in those training sessions. Unarmed mental health experts, she said, should respond to calls involving mental health issues instead of the police.

“I’m done with the collaboration — we have to create a different way. There is just too much resistance to reform,” said Mark, who has a 24-year-old son with autism. “As families we do not feel safe in reaching out to 911 or police for any circumstance where we may need assistance, so there’s got to be a better way.”