On August 30th in Rochester, New York, a mother of a 16-year-old with autism watched on as her son was maced, handcuffed, and taken to a holding cell because a police officer didn’t understand his behavior.
Billy-Jo Brimacomb was sitting on her porch with her two sons. A police officer showed up initially looking for other teenagers who were in an upstairs apartment on the property. Brimacomb claims that the officer began to interrogate her about whether or not the teens were selling drugs.
Jason, the 16-year-old son with autism, jumped up from where he was and touched his mother who was sitting in a chair. According to Brimacomb, Jason is developmentally on the level of a six to eight year old. Nervous that the officer was going to harm his mother, he repeated “That’s my mom, don’t hit my mom.”
Jason then began to have a tantrum, and Brimacomb told the officer that he has autism, and asked if she could bring Jason inside to calm him down. The officer told Brimacomb that he didn’t care what was wrong with him, and he maced Jason. She pleaded that the officer make a mental hygiene arrest, so Jason could be taken to a facility where he would be treated adequately, and her request was ignored.
“You know, I don’t think he deserved to be handcuffed and maced and taken downtown and sitting in a holding cell all night. This poor kid right now is deathly afraid of cops,” Brimacomb said.
Julie Buick, speaking on behalf of UNIFEAT (Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatment) said: “Children with autism can’t be lumped in with the criminals and the people who are the dangers out there. They are vulnerable. And they really need the help and support from everyone.”