Barb Trader Comments on Reginald Latson’s Story

“I am compelled to thank Ruth Marcus for shedding light on Reginald
Latson’s story in the Washington Post. What has happened to Reginald is tragic,
and was completely preventable.

Autistic people have been in our society since the beginning of time.
According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children has autism. It is well known that
when aggressively confronted, many autistic people freeze up or lash out as
Reginald did. This “flight or fight” response, with which we are all
biologically programmed, is known to be especially sensitive in people with
autism. When the “flight or fight” response is triggered, it can be so
strong that it overrides any willful action or self-control. The prevalence
of people with autism in our society is widely reported. Why then does such
egregious incompetence and intolerance in law enforcement and criminal
justice still exist?

This is a criminal case that was CREATED by the mishandling of a person with
a disability by law enforcement – a common phenomenon resulting in many lost
lives. It is difficult to understand why the first responder confronting
Reginald couldn’t manage that interaction without eliciting a violent
response and why, once his diagnosis of autism was known, it was apparently
not considered by the criminal justice system. Law enforcement and criminal
justice systems must adopt strategies in order to responsibly conduct
themselves when people with disabilities are involved. Such strategies
include advanced training, with a priority for first responder training, and
the development of partnerships between law enforcement, mental health,
protection and advocacy and public school systems. These strategies save
lives and prevent suffering caused by law enforcement and criminal justice
systems that just don’t get it.”

-Barb Trader, TASH Executive Director

View the article in the Washington Post.