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Congress To Weigh Police Interactions With Disability Community


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Patti Saylor will share the story of her son Ethan’s death before a congressional committee later this month, national Down syndrome associations announced Monday.

Ethan Saylor, 26, died while he was being forcibly removed from a Frederick, Md. movie theater by off-duty sheriff’s deputies in January 2013. Saylor, who had Down syndrome, died of asphyxiation while he was being removed in handcuffs, according to sheriff’s office and court records.

Patti Saylor will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

She was invited to speak by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who will chair the hearing titled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety.”

The full witness list for the April 29 hearing was not released Monday.

Since Ethan Saylor’s death, Patti Saylor has advocated for changes to police training and other policies to avoid similar deaths in the future.

“I am confident that this hearing will help save the lives of individuals with intellectual and development disabilities in the future,” Patti Saylor said in a statement released by the National Down Syndrome Society. “I look forward to sharing Ethan’s story and ensuring his legacy lives on for others with Down syndrome and other disabilities.”

Sara Hart Weir, vice president of advocacy and affiliate relations for NDSS, said the organization plans to submit testimony and hopes lawmakers will adopt policy changes at the federal level. Weir is a member of the Maryland committee established by Gov. Martin O’Malley in response to Saylor’s death, which is examining statewide first-responder training policies and social inclusion efforts.

“Now, Ethan’s story has not only touched every person in the state of Maryland through Gov. O’Malley’s executive order … but could also touch everyone in the United States,” Weir said.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Maria R says:

    Thank you for your courageous crusade.

  2. marie camp says:

    Good for her, I want to wish her the best of luck and I back you up 100 percent. This matter is long overdue and should be addressed to all of Congress not just a few.

  3. vmgillen says:

    This is sooo long overdue. I hope they also consider people of all races – I’ve heard some real horror stories on interactions between law enforcement and Y-chromosome carriers of the non-caucasion persuasion with autism (how’s that for euphemism?).

  4. wanda says:

    my son got hurt by and policeman in arkansas my son was bruse and he hurt ing in his ribs and he has autism.somethig got to get done to protect our kid they can help then self and we cant help or we will get arested

  5. wanda says:

    this man should be ashamed of his self .the kid got alot to deal with for as have down or autism .or any othere congress need to protect them.this so sad

  6. Electric_Pink says:

    I work for an organization that serves people with ID/DD. The agency has a staff training coordinator certified in crisis management training among other areas. I think it would be a good idea for some of these law enforcement agencies to partner with local providers serving people with ID/DD, particularly ones that employ certified trainers teaching their own direct support professionals how to safely address individual behaviors and such. Law enforcement agencies would be showing their commitment to their communities by better serving people with disabilities through collaboration in some way with well-run, well-respected providers.

  7. anonymous says:

    What happened to Ethan Saylor was unfortunate and could have been avoided if only the off-duty sheriffs had revived some sort of disability awareness training. I think that this hearing is long over do and changes need to be made. There are agencies out there that provide disability awareness training for First Responders, to name one there is the First Responder Disability Awareness Training office that is located at Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY. They offer Train the Trainer training for First Responders in Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, and EMS.

  8. Teresa says:

    I work with people with ID/DD and I am not placing blame on anyone, but staff must remember that the community does not have the same training as we do and should never leave individuals alone when they are not sure of the response he may get from others. I hope that his mother can spread a wide net and make everyone aware of how to support individuals with disabilities when in the community.

  9. susan collins says:

    First I would like to say how sorry I am that this mother had to go through this…I would just die, my son has a disability which could be read wrong and has been done to him in the past..I applaud her for doing something positive like this, since we went through traumatic times with police when my son was not the felon they were looking for, has no record to date…it was awful, I fought like hell with captains, corporals, and other state legislators to get the word out how my son was treated for nothing he did. I hope this will bring enlightenment to police departments, since they need the most training for issues today. God bless this woman for her work.

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