Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I just got off the call hosted by the NDSC, the NDSS and FRIENDS regarding Ethan Saylor's death.  I was hoping, not really expecting, but hoping that I would come out of it feeling a little bit better, feeling like they really do get it, that I really am heard...but alas, I do not.  

Training?!?!  Really? We are still talking about training?  How much training does it take to be a decent human being?  How much training does it take to recognize Down syndrome?  Anyone with eyeballs that work can usually recognize the features of Down syndrome.  Do we really need police officers to be specifically trained to "deal" with people with differences?  

Ok, maybe to that last part, we do.  It would be very helpful if officers were taught to recognize a few simple signs in ASL.  It would be helpful if officers were trained that people with cognitive challenges may not respond as quickly as a "typical" individuals to their commands.  Yes, I believe that is true.

What I don't believe is true is that these three off duty officers needed more training.  Between them, they had 40+ years experience.  They knew that the face down restraint was dangerous.  They used it anyway.  They heard him cry for his mom.  They killed him anyway.  They didn't listen to his caregiver.  They didn't wait for his mom, who was on her way.  The left him to stop breathing face down on the disgusting movie theater floor.  

This is a homicide.  It has nothing to do with Down syndrome or obesity or whether or not Ethan broke the law at all (which is highly debatable).  It has everything to do with three human beings who have sworn to SERVE AND PROTECT killing an unarmed individual. 

I want to know why.  I want to know what they were thinking.  Why they thought Ethan posed such a threat as to deserve that face down restraint usually reserved for violent criminals.  I want to know why there isn't more outrage.  I want to know why our national groups haven't publicly denounced the officers actions.  I want to know why they haven't plastered every newspaper with a headline that says "Down syndrome is not a cause of death".

Our national groups should not be focused on training.  They should be focused on telling the world that it is UNACCEPTABLE for police officers to kill an unarmed person.  PERIOD!  The authorities want this to go away and blaming it on Down syndrome is one way to do it.  "Oh, if only they had been "trained" to recognize Down syndrome this never would have happened!"  they cry.  BULLSHIT, I say.  

What they aren't saying is that Ethan was an easy target.  What they aren't saying is that they really don't think Ethan deserved the same rights as you and I because he was different and he dared be out in public.  What they aren't saying is that when it comes to understanding and accepting people with disabilities as equals, we are as far away from that today as blacks were in the 50's and 60's.

This is a civil rights issue and until it is recognized and treated as such, we will get nowhere.

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