Del. Mizeur has sent a letter to the Governor.
There's a call from a Montgomery County lawmaker to investigate the death of Robert Ethan Saylor. Delegate Heather Mizeur, whose also running for Governor, has sent a letter to Maryland's current Chief Executive, Martin O'Malley, asking that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene look into this case, with an emphasis on the quality of training police officers receive in dealing with persons with disabilities.
"Far too little awareness exists among our public safety officials and the general public about how to approach situations like Ethan's, and how to best protect the safety of some of our most vulnerable citizens," says Delegate Mizeur.
Saylor, 26, of New Market, died in January, 2013, after struggling with deputies who were trying to remove him from a movie theater at the Westview Promenade. He had Down Syndrome.
Authorities say Saylor had finished seeing the film, "Zero Dark Thirty," when he and his attendant had left the theater to go home. He wondered back in while waiting for the car, and sat down in the theater. Management asked the deputies, who were moonlighting as security officers at Westview Promenade, to remove Saylor. He could stay if he purchased another ticket. The Sheriff's Office says Saylor cursed and swore while deputies were trying to place him in handcuffs. He stopped breathing and handcuffs were removed. Saylor was taken to the hospital where he died.
The State Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy, and determined that the cause of death was homicide due to asphyxiation.
The three deputies were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. A Frederick County Grand Jury looked into the case, and decided not to indict the three.
Critics have called for an independent investigation of the three deputies.
"My inquiry is not about assigning any kind of criminal fault in what occurred. This is about taking a step back, and seeing what problem existed, how it was responded to, what kind of tragic horrible outcome was created," says Mizeur.
She says this probe should look into the quality of training for police officers in dealing with persons with disabilities. "I've asked the governor to help collaborate with the legislative branch and our Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to help investigate state and local policies for best practices so that we can revisit protocols, revise them if needed, to insure that we're protecting persons with intellectual and other disabilities, while giving our law enforcement officials what they need to navigate these situations successfully," Mizeur says.
"We have to get to a place where we have crisis responders inside our police departments," she says. Mizeur says law enforcement agencies should have officers "who are trained in how to deescalate, to understand what the triggers are, to have a non-lethal response when a situation like this comes forward."
In addition to the investigation, Delegate Mizeur is calling for the creation of a state commission or task force to develop training standards for police in dealing with persons with disabilities.
Depending upon whether an investigation is launched, Delegate Mizeur says she may sponsor legislation during the 2014 General Assembly "to require that police departments have the kind of training necessary to create crisis responders inside the police department that would be better equipped to deal with people with disabilities."
If it's introduced, Mizeur says she plans to call it "Ethan's Law."