Cops, And Rent-A-Cops Gone Wild

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Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press - June 16, 2014

Thank God this situation didn’t turn out as horribly for Wendy Kozma, as a similar scenario did for Ethan Saylor ... though it was bad enough. From the description of the scene at Walmart, it sounds like it could have been an almost exact repeat.

I’m not sure there are any great new lessons to learn here … just the same simple lessons that apparently aren’t being learned:

- Yes, some people with intellectual disabilities react differently to upsetting, unfamiliar situations than other people, sometimes in ways that can be baffling and even frightening. Understanding that as a general principle, however can drain away most of the fear, leaving room for conscious thought and compassion.

- People in charge of public safety and security … both police and private security … need to keep their brains in gear and not go on automatic force mode, especially when situations are tense and about to spin out of control.

- They also need to listen to the people they are dealing with, and to people with them, for clues on how to resolve situations. They especially need to resist the tendency to dismiss people who they might view as marginal or unreliable … such as children, old people (like Ms. Kozma’s grandmother), and young women (like Ethan Saylor’s aide).

- Companies that hire private security need to provide better training, and probably watch out more carefully for cop-wannabes who think narrowly and enjoy exercising authority just a little too much.

- There must be some way for companies and police agencies to apologize for obvious screwups without guaranteeing massive retaliatory lawsuits. Apologies on the spot would probably prevent a host of problems and trauma.