In 2013, a child with Down Syndrome went to the movies and was murdered by off-duty police officers working as mall security.
Let that sink in.
A child was murdered by police officers because they did not recognize that he had a disability. He was murdered because they did not know how to deescalate the situation. He was murdered because they were not trained.
They did not know.
This is why I am have been writing all month for Rare Disease and PACS1 Month.
We are so lucky, in our town. We have officers who have sought out Bridget. To make sure they know her, what sparks conversation and how to make her feel safe. We have firefighters than when they come to the house to rescue her grandmother at 4 in the morning, know how to talk with Bridget and are not annoyed when she tells them to buckle the stretcher seat belt. She has teachers and custodians and friends who make sure she gets to class when she gets lost.
In third grade, she has friends who know what to do when it is too noisy and when she gets scared.
But what happens when she is not in our town?
I don’t know what I would do if the last words she utters is “Mommy it hurts”.
It’s not just public safety, those who are supposed to be trained to protect. As she ages, kids get meaner. It’s a sad but true fact, which is why it is important to me that her peers know her. The more Charlie’s in her life, the safer she will be.
In Maryland, the Courts found the officers innocent. But the State realized his death was due to a lack of training. They have changed academy (and ongoing) training to include how to interact with those who have intellectual disabilities. Using those with disabilities in the training, not as an abstract figure. But as a human. I wish this was a Federal Mandate. That our public safety personnel received the training they need (across the country). In 2018 less than 5 years after Ethan’s murder, NY Police shot a Brooklyn man who was known to be mentally ill.
I don’t know how to keep Bridget safe. I’m just glad for the Officers in her life that make an effort. For her village of support and love.
One day I want her to go to the movies and be safe.
Just like any other parent.