The Free Thought Project
Olathe, KS – Police officers are making an attempt to keep from murdering innocent individuals who suffer from autism, by putting the burden on family members to ensure that their loved one with special needs is accompanied with a sticker.
The car stickers, which were created by the Take Me Home Program, are free for local residents. They help to warn officers that they are dealing with a “special needs person” who “may not respond to verbal commands.” The new initiative was announced in a Facebook post from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office:
“These clings were designed for placement inside of vehicles or residences where the occupant could be non-verbal due to disability. It is our hope these can provide peace of mind to families and minimize the stress involved in an emergency situation by better preparing first responders when they interact with your loved one or client.”
Four days later, the department posted that the response was so positive, they now have to order more stickers. “We are thrilled to see the positive response regarding our Take Me Home window clings. The response has been so positive, we are already having to restock!” the statement said.
The Take Me Home program was developed as a way to give police a database of emergency contact information and descriptions of cognitive conditions for individuals with special needs who may have difficulty responding to police and first responders.
The program’s website claimed that police departments must “make the commitment to use the program and gather and maintain the individual enrollment records,” and once the program is in place in a city, the individual’s family can submit “a recent digital photo, description of height, weight and other demographic information as well as emergency contact information.”
If the officers in those communities encounter an individual who is not able to communicate verbally, they have the option to search the database to see if that individual is included.
The implementation of the Take Me Home program’s initiatives comes two years after Joey Weber, 36, was shot and killed by police officers in Kansas who claimed he was refused to comply during a traffic stop. When he saw the police cruisers following him with glaring lights, he continued to drive. As The Free Thought Project reported, the location Weber stopped at was “the street on which New Age Services is located. As he was startled by the officers, it is apparent Weber tried to make it to a safe space; somewhere he knew he would be okay.”
“People who have autism can become overwhelmed by excessive external stimulation—such as the flashing lights on a patrol car and shouted commands by officers—and might be too frightened or confused to be capable of compliance. Weber’s family previously explained he had low verbal skills and simply didn’t know what to do in this situation. So when Weber arrived at the place he felt he could be understood, and officers continued barking orders, his stress and confusion worsened.”
The officers were quick to order Weber to the ground at gunpoint, even though there was no indication that he was armed or that he was threatening them. Sgt. Brandon Hauptman wrestled Weber to the ground, and then pushed his gun into Weber’s chest and fired one fatal shot. Not surprisingly, Hauptman justified the shooting by claiming that Weber was trying to grab his gun, and he “feared for his life.”
In another case, a mother in Las Vegas painted a sign on her garage door that read, “AUTISTIC MAN LIVES HERE, COPS NO EXCUSES,” after a friend called police when her 28-year-old autistic son was throwing a temper tantrum, and the force used by officers sent the man to the hospital.
While police spend the majority of their training learning how to accurately shoot their weapons, studies have shown that very little time is devoted to teaching officers how to de-escalate tense situations, and most departments do not require any training for how officers should act when they encounter the mentally ill.
While the new stickers in Olathe, Kansas, may help police officers think before they shoot, the initiative does not take away from the fact that police officers should be required to receive more training in dealing with the mentally ill and learning how to de-escalate situations before another innocent life is taken.