US: Ethan Saylor becomes national symbol for law enforcement failures

Ethan Saylorsource: The Frederick News-Post
published: 5 May 2014

Ethan Saylor, the young man with Down syndrome who died during his 2013 arrest by three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies, has become a national symbol for how law enforcement can mishandle developmentally disabled people.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, named this week’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on improving law enforcement interactions with developmentally disabled and mentally ill individuals “Ethan’s Hearing.”

In doing so, Durbin made the Saylor case the single illustrative warning of what can happen when law enforcement fails its responsibilities to the disabled and mentally ill community.

“In recent years, law enforcement have been forced to shoulder a new challenge due to inadequate mental health and social services. Police officers, many times, have become the first responders for disabled individuals in crisis,” Durbin said at the outset of the hearing. “It’s incumbent on Congress and the executive branch to help local and state law enforcement shoulder this expanded role and develop practices that protect officers, disabled individuals and the public.”

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