Robert Ethan Saylor (Photo from Stauffer Funeral Home)
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- In the heart-wrenching case of the Frederick man with Down Syndrome who died in the custody of off-duty police officers, Maryland's governor is promising new police training standards.
This is not a new investigation of the death of Ethan Saylor. But new training for officers in how to handle people with mental disabilities.
At the International Association of Chiefs of Police, John Firman is overjoyed at the Governor O'Malley's response to the pleas of Ethan Saylor's family. "Police have to have more help, more training, more policies, more support, more funding support, more mental health in the community."
The association published a report three years ago urging police agencies across the country to develop crisis intervention teams to help officers in encounters like the one at a Frederick movie theater that left Saylor dead, asphyxiated in three sets of police handcuffs.
"There is probably 800,000, state and local officers across the country. You could train each one of them with the basics about how to see and assess that you have a mental health issue," says Firman.
The first basic? If officers have time, they should consult the people who know the subject.
Like the health aide who told police Saylor hated being touched and would "freak out."
Or the mom who calls police because her disabled son upstairs is out of control. "If police have the time and no one is being threatened, but she's lost control, as they come into the house, they take that precious few moments to get information from that mother who is fully informed. Then when they get up the stairs their likelihood of successful intervention is very high," says Firman. "If they move right by the mom and skip all that information and run up the stairs, then the likelihood goes the other way."
It's impossible to know, but maybe training like that might have saved Saylor's life.
Firman of the Police Chief's Association says he is only speaking generally about training and support. He has no details about what happened to Ethan Saylor.