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New Partnership Formed to Prepare People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for Training Law Enforcement Personnel

I am pleased to announce that the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute (MCDD) has entered into an agreement with the Maryland Department of Disabilities to work with community partners in preparing and supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to educate law enforcement personnel on ways to safely interact with citizens who may have disabilities. The MCDD is partnering with three leading disability advocacy groups People On the Go of Maryland, Pathfinders for Autism, and The Arc Maryland. As a result of the one-year project, 15 people with I/DD from around the state will become active participants alongside law enforcement trainers to educate both in-service and entry-level law enforcement personnel on appropriate and effective means of communicating and interacting with people with I/DD.

The project is a culmination of activities in response to the death of Ethan Saylor, a young Maryland man with Down syndrome who died on January 12, 2013, during an altercation with off-duty police officers. Shortly after his death, former Governor Martin O'Malley formed a commission by executive order to develop recommendations for training standards and best practices the state should adopt to educate law enforcement and other first responders about how to safely manage situations involving people with I/DD, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Last year, Governor Hogan signed into law a bill establishing the Ethan Saylor Alliance for Self Advocates as Educators within the Maryland Department of Disabilities. The new partnership is intended to develop and field test this alliance, with an ultimate goal of broadening the model throughout the state.
"By having a central role in the education and training of law enforcement personnel and other first responders, individuals with I/DD are able to use their skills, capabilities, and experiences to make meaningful contributions to their communities," said Carol Beatty, secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities. She added, "Inclusion of individuals with I/DD in law enforcement training, and in all aspects of community life for that matter, reduces stigma while enhancing safety."

The project partners will be responsible for recruiting, supporting, and training 15 people with I/DD in basic self-advocacy skills as well as in the use of a curriculum designed for first responders called Understanding Core Characteristics of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities that has been certified by the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. Once the self-advocates have been trained, they will each co-lead at least two field-based law enforcement trainings scheduled throughout central Maryland in early 2017. Self-advocates will be compensated for their contributions and transportation will be provided. The project includes an evaluation component to assess project outcomes and to identify recommendations for expanding and sustaining the model.

People On the Go is now recruiting self-advocates to become trainers for the project. To become a paid trainer or for more information about the project, please contact Tami Goldsmith at or 443-923-9593. For more information, view the project fact sheet.

Elizabeth Benevides
Chair, MCDD Community Advisory Council
Associate Director, Hussman Foundation
Hussman Institute for Autism