I am appalled by the video that has surfaced on the Internet of a therapist who was shot by the Miami Police Department as he tried to comfort his autistic client. Apparently, someone called the police with the report that there was a man with a gun in the area. There was no gun and the man was a 23-year-old with autism. The behavior therapist whose job is to provide care for the autistic adult is seen laying on the ground with his hands up in the air begging the cops to put away their weapons. He tries repeatedly to explain to the police that the man has autism and that there were no weapons involved.
Despite his desperate pleas, he is shot in the leg. #CharlesKinsey said he wasn’t worried about his own life, but rather was concerned that his autistic client would be shot. As has become the norm in these situations, the cop has been placed on administrative leave and there will be an “investigation.” I don’t know how many times we can hear the same words and expect them to do anything but ring hollow.
I, like most Americans, have a great deal of respect for police officers and the difficult job that they do. But after spending all of last Friday with a family who has been devastated because their 16-year-old autistic son was tased by a police officer simply because he forgot to put on his seatbelt, and spending weeks on CNN talking about the horrific shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I am growing intolerant of the rhetoric that “not all police are bad.”
Of course all police are not bad. But we have a real issue in this country as it relates to police interactions with African-American men and individuals with autism and mental health issues. There is too much evidence of encounters gone bad because officers acting under color of authority with the presumed training do too little to preserve life.
We can keep ignoring these issues as Rudy Giuliani and the cast of characters appearing at the GOP national convention choose to do. But for African-Americans and those of us on the front lines advocating for individuals with autism, that is a lie we choose to reject. We are going to call it what it is. Police brutality. We are going to call out those district attorneys that refuse to prosecute rogue cops. We are going to call out those police officers that witness brutality in their own departments but yet remain silent. We are going to vote out of office elected officials that will not enact legislation that protects law abiding citizens from unconstitutional interactions with police that result and injury or loss of life. We are going to stand up, speak out, agitate for change and disrupt the status quo because if we don’t who will!