The Buckeye Police Department recently released body camera video of an officer taking down an autistic teenager who he suspected was on drugs due to his unusual behavior. It’s ignited debate between those who believe the police officer acted reasonably and did nothing wrong, and those who believe an innocent boy was taken down and handcuffed because of a lack of understanding about typical autism behaviors.
The incident happened two months ago on July 19th, but the video was released early this week.
The body camera video shows the officer getting out of his vehicle and approaching the 14-year-old boy who was alone in a park are near Verrado Town Square. The officer observed the boy making what appeared to be suspicious hand movements and asked the boy what he was doing. The teen replied that he was “stimming,” and held up a piece of string.
Stimming is a common term used in the autism community that refers to various forms of repetitive self-stimulation behaviors that often calm the individual with autism. Stimming can be any variety of repetitive behaviors, from rubbing a piece of fabric to arm flapping or even pacing back and forth. In this case, the boy holds a piece of string close to his face.
The officer, David Grossman, asks the boy if he has any ID on him. The boy says “no” and tries to walk away. Officer Grossman then grabbed his arms. The boy, named Connor, can be heard screaming in panic, which is not an uncommon reaction to being touched for someone with autism. The officer then pinned him to the ground and handcuffed him. Connor complied, answered the officer’s questions, and kept repeating, “I’m okay.”
A few moments later, his aunt, who was his caretaker at the time, arrives and explains to the officer that Connor has autism.
According to a new release from the Buckeye Police Department, Officer Grossman is a state certified trainer in drug use recognition. He observed the teenager moving his hand to his face in a manner consistent with inhaling, and then observed the teenager’s body react accordingly after that movement.
“I observed some object in his right hand that he hit against his left palm and then immediately bring his hands up to his face in what appeared he was smelling something,” Grossman said in a report. The Buckeye Police Department believes the officer acted reasonably, based on his training and expertise.
The family’s attorney, Timothy Scott, believes the incident shows a lack of training in the Buckeye Police Department on how to recognize people with disabilities. Besides some scrapes to his back and arms, he says Connor is okay now, but is very afraid of police. He hopes this incident will encourage the department to provide training to their officers to recognize the difference between someone with autism and someone under the influence of drugs.
Video source: Buckeye Police Department