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Disability Advocates Chide Panel Following Death Of Ethan Saylor

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SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A state commission formed in response to the death in custody of a man with Down syndrome should seek legislation mandating disability awareness training for police and other first responders, the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities said Thursday.

The center, part of the Baltimore-based Kennedy Krieger Institute, chided the panel for not recommending such a law in its initial progress report last week, after nearly four months of work. The report contained no recommendations but outlined a broad plan for community inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Lauren Peterson, representing the Center for Developmental Disabilities, told the commission the center’s leaders had expected more.

“We are concerned that the report does not specifically address possible legislation to mandate the training,” she said at the first of four “listening” sessions the commission is holding around the state.

Peterson noted that the Maryland General Assembly’s three-month session began last week, with little discussion whether a bill that supporters call “Ethan’s Law,” named for victim Robert Ethan Saylor, will be introduced.

“We hope in the coming months, the commission will further discuss the timeline for legislative action,” Peterson said.

Commission member Charles W. Rapp, executive director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions, said such training could be mandated without legislation. But he said the panel appointed in response to Saylor’s death hasn’t settled on a training regimen.

Saylor’s mother, Patti, of New Market, said outside the meeting room that she expects the commission to eventually recommend training but she understands the need for more research.

“Personally, I recognize that there’s an opportunity here for something broader and bigger than my son,” said Ms. Saylor, a longtime advocate for those with Down syndrome. “If I’m talking or thinking as a mother, I’d like something immediate about him. But if I’m thinking as the advocate that I’ve been for 30 years, I’m willing to wait and do something more comprehensive.”

Ethan Saylor, 26, died of asphyxia last January as three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies  moonlighting as mall security officers tried to remove him from a Frederick movie theater because he hadn’t purchased a ticket for a repeat viewing of “Zero Dark Thirty.” His death was ruled a homicide but a Frederick County grand jury refused to indict the officers.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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