Opinion

Florida police take step in the right direction with autism training

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File photo.

A North Miami police officer shot mental health therapist Charles Kinsey in an incident involving his autistic patient, who was playing with a toy the officer perceived to be a weapon only a little more than a year ago.

The officer is now facing two felony counts of attempted manslaughter and two misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence. Unfortunately, situations like these are anything but isolated.

Kinsey survived, but his story is one of many in the epidemic of mishandled police situations. A total of 748 people have been killed by law enforcement in 2017, according to the Washington Post. Some shootings are necessary, but far too many are not.

Criticism over the handling of the Kinsey situation led to a new state law which requires Florida police officers to participate in autism training to help them better identify characteristics and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and properly respond to citizens displaying such symptoms.

According to the CDC, approximately one out of every 68 children in the United States has autism, so it is inevitable that law enforcement officers will encounter people with autism.

Autistic people already have difficulty communicating, so it should come as no shock that they may have even more difficulty in high-pressure situations, such as dealing with law enforcement. That situation should not cost them their lives. It is important that officers recognize this behavior and proceed with caution.

This new law is a great first step toward bettering the protocol of our law enforcement. However, extending this training to include other developmental disorders would be a positive second step to ensure all citizens are protected by the government and law enforcement to the fullest extent.

Jordan Lewis is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.

October 9, 2017

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