An Open Letter to the Police From an Autism Dad (and a cop)

17. February 2016 blog posts, Mr. Bacon, police 13
Brothers and sisters, we are losing. We can argue about the reasons why (reality vs. perception); we can argue about the biased media; unreasonable expectations; poor self-promotion. But, the brutal truth is many special needs individuals and families are afraid to call us when they need help. They are afraid we will hurt them. They are afraid we will judge them. They are afraid we will take their children away. That is both tragic and unacceptable to me, and I hope it is unacceptable to you too.
This is difficult for me to say, but in all honesty, I’m afraid too. I am a high ranking officer in my police department. I am in charge of training. I teach this stuff. And, as a dad, I’m afraid too. You–we–are granted immense power to affect the trajectory of people’s lives. That scares them–us.
We are brothers. I would bleed for you. I am calling in my chips and begging you to hear me out. You will meet our families at our lowest points. Understand the courage and sheer desperation that is required, given their utter fear of us, to pick up the phone and dial 911 during a crisis. You will be tempted to judge us– to “otherise” us. Please don’t. I am a good father. My wife is a wonderful mother. We enjoy the luxury of an incredible support structure. And, if you were to judge me based on any of the four (YES, FOUR) times I have lost my son, you could make a case that I am completely unfit.
Families like mine operate on Level 10 Alert Status twenty-four hours per day. I have not sat and enjoyed a meal with my wife at a family picnic in 11 years. We take turns keeping watch over my son. We sleep in shifts. We sleep with one ear open for the sound of the chain latch on our back door– not because we are afraid of burglars coming in, but because we are afraid of our son breaking out. We are constantly aware of the ignorant stares and judgment of strangers. We have to carefully plan and coordinate even the shortest trips to the supermarket. This strains us.
I’m not asking for your sympathy. This is not a tragedy. Leukemia is a tragedy. This is a challenge. And, sometimes our best isn’t good enough. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need you.
I am your biggest fan. I am your loudest advocate. I am screaming from the rooftops that you are, without equivocation, The Good Guys. But it’s so fragile. One negative headline spreads like wildfire and becomes the accepted perception. Open your hearts and minds, and learn about our families. Approach us with genuine curiosity and empathy. You have no idea how much we need you.”

13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Police From an Autism Dad (and a cop)”

  • 1
    Renee Seaton on February 17, 2016 Reply

    Check out the Travis Alert Bill my friend In Washington State has proposed for training for all emergency aid staff to have for people with disabilities. I wish you the very best!

  • 2
    m s hatton on February 18, 2016 Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • 3
    m s hatton on February 18, 2016 Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • 4
    Unknown on February 19, 2016 Reply

    I too am the father of an almost 10 year old autistic boy. He's non verbal.
    I have fears…the fear that he'll start running away again. If you've ever chased your child down the double yellow line of the road on which you live you'll understand.
    My greatest fear is that after I'm gone, and my little boy is no longer little that he''ll have the unfortunate opportunity to meet a member of law enforcement…the one that doesn't understand. The one that views my son as uncooperative and deals with uncooperative people that don't respond to their questions, their directives, their commands in a manner that that officer can accept…and my son loses his life to that officer's ignorance, or perhaps better described as his lack of training.
    Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your law enforcement family. I could never do your job as a police officer. I do the same job as you as a parent…the best I can.

  • 5

    Since 1998, I have given presentations to police, fire, EMS in local communities in Pittsburgh, PA. I will continue to do so. One of my very good friends got legislation passed in PA for officers to have this training. I am available for any department who wants to be informed about autism.

  • 6
    Don Curtis on March 3, 2016 Reply

    Have you considered posting on, Humanizing The Badge, Blue Lives Matter etc.? They are good sites and reach readers from many departments.

  • 7
    Cathy C Lickner on July 21, 2016 Reply

    I know where your coming from I have an autistic son myself and he does tend to wander every now and then and it does scare the hell out of me when he does this I keep telling him someone will take him and I won’t see him anymore if someone takes him so he has stop doing it for now and I do hope he doesn’t do it again

  • 8
    Peter M. Cole on July 21, 2016 Reply

    As a retired Police Officer, Metropolitan Police London till 1987. I have the upmost respect for Police and Other Emergency Services, Worldwide.
    Up until a Decade ago I knew absolutely nothing about Autism. Then I met Matt, who was 30 at the time. Matt is Full Spectrum Autistic, Non Verbal, and really smart :). He is my Best Friend and We can be seen in our Community anywhere from walking Downtown, Church and tonight The Dip ( local bar ) for a Blue Moon.
    That could have been Matt sitting and Me Laying down, hands up, getting shot.
    On the News tonight the Cop statement is “I was shooting at the other guy and missed “.
    Thanks for the letter you wrote above, it speaks for me and Matt also.
    This is a Sad day for all concerned, but I did not see or hear any evidence that Justified the officer shooting and hopefully the investigation into the incident is fair and Just.
    Whilst serving I was never trained in the area of Autism, albeit it was less known back in the 70’s and 80’s, and are understanding that More Awareness and Training for Police is needed, until such a thing happens, incidents like this and worse, as you are aware have already happened and will continue.
    Thank You for your Service. I hope that you have been able to circulate your letter Nationally to All Police Forces in the USA.

  • 10
    Teresa Perez on July 23, 2016 Reply

    After four sexual abuse/assault police investigations between the ages of four and six with my daughter….I discovered after a safety class my autistic son attended…he told a counsellor and a teacher about inappropriate sexual contact with his older half-sibling…halton CAS didn’t bother to investigate or notify the police or myself….after sexual health awareness at school…my son disclosed further inappropriate sexual actions done to him plus two incidents of sexual assault….police said my daughter was *too young* to b a credible witness…n then most recently police told me my son’s autism would create difficulties with testifying….no charges have ever been laid against this teen….what message does that send?…both to the teen….as well as to both my children…n this is why the majority of sexual attacks go unreported….cause it’s pointless

  • 11
    Gwessie on July 23, 2016 Reply

    Your an inspiration, I also have a son with Autism he’s 8 and honestly truly fear for him, the world we live in is a scary place mostly because of other influences one being fear those different or by not knowing about situations of others for us being parents of a child with special needs it increases a hundred fold or more, we love our kids more than life we just need understanding and sometimes we need help. Having 2 kids my eldest doesn’t have it but when our son came along it is literally learning how to be a patent all over again and being on full alert at all times but so very worth it I wouldn’t change my son for the world he has his difficulties but he’s a gift all children are a life gift to be loved and nurtured and some need more help than others to understand the world around them and not be judged by people through the people without the knowledge to understand them, this gentleman, Sir I salute you and I’m glad you and the majority of your colleagues are amazing as its true its the minority situations that are heard about most Officers are awesome doing their job its the minority few who let their profession and the public down #autismawareness #mostpoliceofficersareheros

  • 12
    Lolita on July 23, 2016 Reply

    My husband is a police officer and we have a seven year old severely autistic, non-verbal son. My husband came home from work and asked if I’d seen the video. He seemed shaken. When I watched it, I was also horrified. We both knew that could be our son. Our son, who may never understand verbal commands of any sort or be able to follow them. I was touched that the caregiver tried so hard to let the police know what was going on and keep them both from being harmed. That might have been me, with my son, with his toy. Only my son would likely have jumped up and bolted or leaned over to pinch me to get my attention. Evidently, he would be shot, according to this officers thinking. My son, who is mentally about 1 year old, who can be aggressive, but who can love like no other, can play with the sincerest joy, and who will never ever deserve to be shot, tazed, or handcuffed anymore than a toddler would.

  • 13
    Theresa Zeth on July 24, 2016 Reply

    My Grandson was removed from my daughters home along with her other two children because her autistic son wandered off. She was actually charged and CONVICTED with felony child neglect! Three years later everything was going great, they moved into a bigger home and without warning my little grandson bolted again…and yes… half of the town was out looking for him and no one called the police. Jail time was not a exciting option. But believe it or not the whole time everyone was frantically searching for him the police officer had him and again he called the state in and again she has been arrested with felony charges of child neglect… I swear to you God as my witness this is the truth. Like their daily Struggles are not great enough they have to deal with ignorant people on a power trip…
    People really need to educate themselves. ..

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