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New Maryland police task force targets improved communication with people with with intellectual and developmental disabilities

4:55 PM, Oct 28, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Maryland Leads the Way Task Force

Md. Gov. Martin O'Malley (www.governor.maryland.gov/biography.asp)

It is the first ever Commission of its kind in the country, and it's tasked with making sure police in Maryland communicate better with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Governor Martin O'Malley established the group after the death of Robert "Ethan" Saylor, the Frederick man with Down Syndrome who died after an altercation with police at a movie theater in January. 

That night, three off-duty Frederick County sheriff's deputies working as theater security physically removed Ethan from the theater for not having a $12 ticket. That night, Ethan died. 

After no arrests, Ethan's family petitioned Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley for an independent investigation and better police training. 

Today, one of the two wishes came true.

"The goal here is to make sure that no one is treated unjustly or incorrectly just out of ignorance," Dr. Tim Shriver, Chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics, the Chair of the Commission, said. The Commission is currently unfunded. 

Shriver explains, "We don't start with a lot of money, we don't need a lot of money, we need our smarts, we need our commitment, we need our passion, that's the first and most important thing."

More than a dozen advocates for people with developmental disabilities and law enforcement officials make up the commission. These thought leaders will work to develop training and public policy with Ethan and others in mind.

 

Col. Marcus Brown is a Superintendent with the Maryland State Police, "When an incident like this happens, it affects us all and we know we're not perfect in the job that we do, we know there's always better ways to do things. I think being part of this commission we'll work toward that."

Sara Weir of the National Down Syndrome Society has been advocating for the Saylor family from day one, "This is the very specific concrete thing that we're seeing from what happened to Ethan on January 12th and I think it's humbling, its rewarding, but we have a clear challenge in front of us, because this could happen again and we need to make sure it doesn't."

The Commission plans to meet a couple more times before they present their report on January 9th, 2014. That date would have been Robert Ethan Saylor's 27th birthday.

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