An ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society gave a lecture on Tuesday about the interactions between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and law enforcement.
Steven Slack, a 1991 graduate of WVU, spoke to a small crowd in the Mountainlair ‘s Mountaineer room on his work.
“I want to dispel the stereotypes and the myths of people with disabilities,” Slack said at the presentation
Slack volunteers in an initiative where he trains multiple police forces across West Virginia and surrounding states on how to handle escalated situations with people with disabilities. He does this work as a member of the National Down Syndrome Society’s Inclusive Education Task Force.
The initiative began shortly after the death of Ethan Saylor in 2013.
Police attempted to remove Saylor, a man with down syndrome, from a theatre using force, eventually resulting in his death.
There are more than 200 intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and Prader-Willi syndrome, Slack said. Many of these fall on a spectrum, meaning their effects could be severe or minimal; often individuals with these disabilities have no visible component.
The lecture focused on preventing interactions between these two groups from escalating. Some of the methods for doing so include:
• Being patient
• Maintaining personal space
• Using names and not titles
• Explaining any actions in advance
• Stating facts and not judgments
• Speaking to them first
Slack also presented these statistics regarding law enforcement and people with disabilities:
• 50 percent of those killed by police have such a disability
• People with such a disability are 43 percent more likely to be arrested by age 28
• One quarter of adults have such a disability
• Excluding people over 65, persons with such a disability are 2.5 times as likely to be victims of violent crime