Recently, the mother of an autistic man has taken what are being called “extreme measures” to protect her son from police brutality. These measures involve plastering his house with signs and warnings, addressed to police officers, that an autistic man lives there, one who is too disabled to know what a cop is let alone that he would have to obey their orders.
This woman fears for her son’s safety, and with good reason. I’m sure you all remember the caretaker who was shot by police, despite the fact that he had his hands up and clearly stated that he was simply caring for an autistic man who was playing with a toy truck. The disabled in America have just as much to fear from police as black communities do, and in some parts of the country they even outstrip black people in number of victims of police violence.
But this mother’s fear for her son goes beyond numbers and statistics. Her own son, the autistic man in question, was himself assualted by the police on a previous occasion. So, considering all of that, why are signs outside his house considered “extreme measures”? Why does this qualify as a television news-worthy story?
No matter how often this happens, no matter how many people die or are violently assaulted by police across the entire country, we are still expected to behave like it’s a rare occurrence perpetrated by a few bad apples. Being frightened if a police officer pulls you over is considered silly and paranoid. Being overly compliant, demure, and overly clear that you do not pose a threat towards that police officer is considered exaggerated behaviour bordering on insulting. And posting warnings about her son’s condition is considered an “extreme measure”.
I don’t think there is anything extreme about it. It is clear that most police departments do not receive training on how to deal with disabled people, and their treatment of them has been appalling. It is not a question of fearing the odd sadist that make it into the department, it is about knowing, for a fact, that none of them have been taught how to deal with people who are different. Until that changes, making sure they know who he is before they even ring the doorbell seems sensible to me.