Disability Training by Police Deemed a Justice Department Priority

In early 2014, the Justice Department launched a new police training initiative aimed to support the transgender community. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the development of anther police training initiative focused on the needs of people with cognitive disabilities.

The outcry for such a program gained ground after the 2013 death of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome. Saylor died after being restrained by three off-duty police when he refused to leave a Frederick, Maryland movie theater. Although the coroner’s office ruled the death a homicide, a grand jury ruled that the three off-duty officers had committed no crime.

As reported in a March 28, 2013 Disability Scoop article, days after the grand jury’s decision, four disability groups, along with Saylor’s mother, met with the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss the situation and the need for immediate changes in police training to prevent a tragedy like this from occurring again.

Jon Colman, president of the National Down Syndrome Society was quoted as saying, “The ultimate goal of this collaborative effort will be to create a training program that can be easily accessed and flexible enough that all law enforcement and first responders nationwide can participate.”

Almost a year after this meeting, the senate held a hearing, deemed “Ethan’s Hearing,” by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, to discuss the need for better law enforcement training when it comes to interacting with people with cognitive disabilities.

Now, month’s after that hearing, it seems the Justice Department is finally taking steps to prevent more deaths like Ethan Saylor’s. While Holder has released no specific details about the police training, it does seem that the initiative is moving forward.

What are your thoughts on the Justice Department’s police disability training? Do you think this new initiative will help people with disabilities? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.


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