Family of autistic teen mistakenly tackled by police ask for better training

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The parents of a teen mistakenly tackled by an Arizona police officer is asking for more training when it comes to interacting with those in the autistic community.

Danielle Leible told CBS News the family has sent a letter to the Buckeye Police Department following the incident involving their 14-year-old son Connor. In addition to asking for more training, the letter specifically asks that the officer apologize to their son and put in the time to understand autism through volunteer work.

The Buckeye Police Department has not responded at this time.

Body camera video released by the department showed the officer, who is a certified drug use recognition expert, approach Connor in a local park back in July 2017. He was reportedly alone and moving his hand to his face in a way that made the officer suspicious of drug use.  He then reportedly saw the teen’s body react and went to speak with him.

During the encounter, Connor turned and began to walk away. That’s when the officer tried to handcuff him, but the teen appears to not have understood what was going on and panicked.

Both eventually fall to the ground causing scrapes and bruises to Connor’s arm and back.

Connor’s caretaker arrived several minutes later and told the officer he was autistic. Once an officer arrived as backup, the teen was allowed to sit next to the caretaker.

According to CBS News, Connor was playing with string. It’s a form of “stimming” which helps those with autism remain calm. The officer mistook the act as signs of drug use and has since been cleared of any wrongdoing based on his training.

However, the department said they will learn from the incident.

“I hope the family sees that we will learn from this incident and we are human and things are constantly evolving and changing — absolutely — and it’s almost impossible to know and understand every single little piece of every single disorder,” Detective Tamela Skaggs told the station.

In addition, the department is putting together a voluntary registry of those with any type of disability so officers can “better respond and care for those in the community.”