About 1 in 68 American children have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a shocking number, but even more troubling are recent incidents with police and individuals with autism. In North Miami, a police officer shot and injured a therapist that was trying to help his autistic patient. The therapist was unarmed.
A new law has recently taken effect that requires Florida police departments to establish autism training for their law enforcement officers. The training will include how to identify characteristics and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and how to respond to those individuals displaying those characteristics.
The entire country is dealing with protests and rising awareness of police-involved shootings. However, there has not been enough done to bring attention to those that may have autism and how they react and respond to reasonable requests by the police. This can lead to over-reactions and this increased training can result in fewer incidents and shootings. Departments like North Miami have also approved higher standards for their officers, including stepped up use of force and crisis intervention training.
Another recent incident that occurred in Phoenix involved a 14-year old autistic teen that was tackled by police unnecessarily. The family is demanding an apology from the police department and increased training and awareness of this issue.
Finally, people who have autism often times do not possess the social skill set to properly interact with others in social situations. This can become very problematic in the use of the internet. For example, a person with autism may fail to understand that in an effort to “make friends” with an undercover police officer trolling for sex offenders who asks for inappropriate videos or pictures of children, the autistic person may do as requested not considering the legal ramifications or understanding of their actions. Further, people with autism often times cannot process dynamic situations that people encounter when dealing with the police. People who are not diagnosed with autism panic when dealing with the police. The level of stress that an autistic person experiences with a police interrogation can be used against that person by the police.
If you have autism or if a family member has been diagnosed with autism and was involved in a police intervention, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights.
Attorney Adam Pollack is a Board Certified Criminal Trial lawyer and can advise your family through the entire process. Call him today at (407) 834-5297.