Is it Safe Out There?

I had a conversation today that disturbed me.
I was talking with one of my clients and his aunt. The aunt was telling me about some of the new experiences the client was enjoying. She then told me about her nephew’s desire to ride the city bus downtown by himself and eat lunch.

She explained that he had learned to ride the bus and she would let him go, but she wasn’t ready to let him go alone. My immediate thought was she worried about him getting lost or robbed, her actual fear never dawned on me.

The client is a young black man with autism. To see him walking down the street people would not immediately recognize his disability.

She began explaining her concern. If her nephew is stopped by a police officer it is possible that he will become nervous and when he becomes nervous he starts waving his arms and talking in circles. The officer could easily misunderstand his reaction and react negatively in return.

I looked at the young man sitting next to me. I felt powerless. I felt fear for this young man. He is such a kind and gentle guy and I instantly understood her fear.

Not only was I upset at the fear I felt for this young man I was also angry that people have to worry about protecting their children from the very people that are paid to protect all of us.
There was a time when I would advice my clients to seek out an officer for help. Now I have to second guess whether that is a good idea.

17 thoughts on “Is it Safe Out There?

    1. treerabold Post author

      Last night Tina and I discussed him carrying a card that explains his condition. The fear is a young black man stopped by police and reaches into his pocket….I’m afraid that action might give the police an excuse to hurt him.
      Something more obvious would “label” him and possibly create a different opportunity for abuse.

  1. pavanneh

    While I can understand your concern, what makes me really sad is the fact that there has been so much negative press about the police that none of the good they do is publicized. There are many more good officers than bad. However, I also agree that there needs to be a better way of identifying those with Autism or other developmental disability so that the officers will know how to deal with him. And that is extremely important. That the officers themselves are properly trained how to handle the mentally/emotionally disabled.

    1. treerabold Post author

      I totally agree. My lifelong friend just retired from a city police department. She recently did a TED talk that asked the public to see the police as humans…she (and you ) are so right.
      Sadly for parents and family members of young black men it has become a very real fear as more and more news reports come out about police abusing their power and seemingly targeting the young black males.

      I know the majority of police are very good and kind people….but it only takes the one power hungry police officer to cause harm to an innocent individual.

      Thank you for taking time to comment….I love hearing all opinions

      1. Emilio Pasquale

        I have had interactions with both good and bad police. But what you say about the public seeing the police as humans must work both ways. I know in moments of high stress there is an increased chance of escalated violence on both sides. But lately the response is to shoot first. I would say that is due to the change in our society lately. Fear is running rampant or just barely under the surface.

      2. treerabold Post author

        Very true. It seems the new norm to explode at the smallest provocation.
        I hope our world can find a way back to the practice of humanity.

  2. Sue

    How big is the city? Is it possible for the aunt to arrange a meeting with the local police in the area he wishes to visit? That way they could all become familiar with each other. Might. It be practical but then again maybe it would work?

    While I like the idea of some sort of easily seen identification to help others – especially healthcare and police/fire/emt responders- recognize someone with Autism, I also worry that it would make them an easy target for people with criminal or bullying intent.

    1. treerabold Post author

      Fort Worth is about 800,000. I think education is the key. The agency Tina works for (and the girls attend day hab) has a program where they (the clients) go to a police academy in Arlington Texas (city next to Fort Worth) and talk to the young police officers about themselves. It has been a very successful program.
      To my knowledge there is no such program in Fort Worth. But taking this young guy to meet police in the area might be helpful. I will mention it to his aunt.
      Hopefully the one cop that NEEDS to meet him is there the day he visits!

      I responded to the ID thought above….if you have more thoughts on it.

  3. joannesisco

    My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach as I started to read this. I knew exactly where you were going with this story. We’ve had similar issues where police shoot first with highly questionable justification … and ask questions later. There doesn’t seem to be easy answers to the problem.

    1. treerabold Post author

      There does not seem to be an easy answer.
      I’ve never experienced that level of fear due to an interaction with a cop. I may be nervous when pulled over, but it never crosses my mind that a cop is going to do me harm.
      I like to think of myself as an empathetic person and an informed person….but yesterday was the first time I truly understood the fear the black community has been talking about. I’ve believed the reports of fear but never felt it. My heart broke for this aunt and this wonderful young man.

      The hope is he will spread his wings and no incident will occur and all worry will be for nothing. But it saddens me that it even needs to be considered.


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