Commission Aims to Improve Response to People with Disabilities


FREDERICK, Md.— It has been more than a year since 26-year-old Ethan Saylor died while in the custody of three off-duty Frederick County Sheriff's deputies.

Ethan was restrained by those deputies after he tried to reenter a movie at a theater in Frederick without a ticket. While being restrained, he asphyxiated and later died.

Now, the Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is trying to make sure something like that never happens again. The Commission was established by Governor Martin O’Malley as a result of Ethan’s death.

"I don't think anyone has moved on from Ethan,” said Commission Chairman Timothy Shriver. “I think what people have is a strong passion for doing right by Ethan."

On Saturday, local residents shared their thoughts with the commission on what could be done to improve the way law enforcement officers and first responders deal with people who have disabilities.

For residents like 25-year-old Adrian Forsythe, it's a cause that hits close to home.

"We need to understand the idea of how people with disabilities are viewed," said Forsythe, who has a disability.

One way the commission hopes to make a difference is by making sure people are properly trained to interact with people with disabilities.

"We all need better training,” said Shirver. “School resource officers need better training, state police officers need better training, bus drivers need better training, sheriffs need better training. So training's one big element of this."

But besides new policies and improvements in training, members of the commission say they recognize the need to change the way the public thinks about people with disabilities.

"I think that's the only thing that's going to, in the end, make things different and address the issue and take care of all the very strong emotion that exists around this right now," said Joanna Pierson, a member of the commission and the executive director of the Arc of Frederick County.

Sunday’s event was the fourth and final stop of the commission's listening tour across Maryland. The commission says they will continue to work with communities as part of their mission to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities.

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