To the editor:

Unfortunately, the disturbing incident on Jan. 12 involving Brian Corbett and five state troopers (“Suit alleges state troopers tackled man with Down syndrome,” Oct. 6) is not a unique occurrence. Brian is 29-year-old man, who is a part-time employee at the Salem Registry of Deeds and happens to have Down syndrome. Law enforcement’s interaction with Brian is similar to what has occurred with other persons with intellectual or developmental limitations.

Behaviors, often exacerbated in a stressful situation, can be misinterpreted as threatening and, since the individual in crisis has limited cognitive capacity, intervention efforts can readily escalate into violent confrontations. Law enforcement personnel and other first responders must be well trained in recognizing such presenting conditions and respond accordingly with de-escalation techniques.

State Sen. Joan Lovely is sponsoring legislation to address this issue, S.131, by establishing a special commission on the treatment of intellectually and developmentally disabled persons within the criminal justice system. She filed this bill in response to previous situations similar to the one that involved Brian.

Brian and others like him when in distress deserve to be treated with dignity and understanding not only for their well-being, but for their families’ and the rest of the community’s as well. Clear and specific policies regarding intervention techniques and ongoing comprehensive training are required.

Paul J. Lanzikos


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