LAPD Responds to Public Backlash in Autism Shooting

(Photo by Flickr/NYCMarines)

This past Saturday, an unarmed man with autism, Steven Eugene Washington, was killed by two LAPD officers after they assumed he was reaching for a weapon in his waistband.

Backlash has since ensued over the tragedy.  The officers said that Washington’s actions caused them to fear for their lives and open fire, but how able was Washington to gauge the social situation and respond properly, given that he has autism?

The LAPD decided to take to their blog this morning in order to set the record straight on whether their officers are prepared to handle situations with individuals who have autism and other special needs.

The LAPD wrote “[the LAPD] prides itself on being the leader in best practices as it relates to working with those who have special needs.  Specific training has been developed and is provided by our Mental Evaluation Section of Detective Support Division.”

They continue, “Specific to Autism training, in September of 2007 the LAPD began working with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Autism Society of America on developing specific training on dealing with autistic people for first responders.  As a result of these efforts a one hour training course was developed for patrol officers on dealing with an Autistic person. And in April of 2008, we announced at a news conference, our partnership with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Autism Society of America.”

One thing that many people feel should be looked at is the actual training materials and/or the course learning experience that was offered by the Autism Society of America, for these Californian officers. The post specifically sites that the training was a 1-hour session. This in itself seems like an under par shot at obtaining the proper understanding of those who are diagnosed with any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. In response to the tragedy, the ACLU has begun an investigation.

The Southern California Executive Director Ramona Ripston said, “it is not clear why lethal force was necessary when officers were not responding to any report of criminal activity and had no reason to suspect Mr. Washington of a crime.”

Ripston additionally called for a thorough re-evaluation of the quality and length of the training (certified as completed by the Autism Society of America) that the LAPD gives to officers regarding dealing with individuals with autism in light of the recent events.

For more information on this story, please check back. The International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4Autism) will continue to post on this topic, as new details are received. Official link to autism news website:

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