Our intention is to depict accurately the events leading up to the death of Ethan Saylor, the actions taken by Governor O’Malley in response, and the push for legislation providing Maryland Police with training on how to resolve conflicts with people who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
So far a committee has been formed and tasked with the job to propose such legislation: the Committee for the inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This committee chaired by Timothy Shriver, President of the Special Olympics, consists of law enforcement officials, lobbyist, health care officials, self-advocates and politicians.
From the very beginning I knew what an important story this was to tell. So many things have fallen in place beyond my control it is obvious this project is an act of God. Throughout the development of this production I am reminded of each step leading to this point.
Starting with my family, as an only child I had no one to compete with for the affection or assets of my parents, which is a gift and a curse. To be honest my parents could never afford another child. I was way too much of a hand-full to divide their attention. They indulged almost every interest giving me an amazing range of experiences. In the journey to understand who I am, I realize that my curiosity has set the stage for my career as a storyteller.
Writing this blog entry also inspires memories and feelings that have been otherwise, for lack of a better word, repressed. My Mother's college best friend and roommate have a daughter with special needs, Jennifer. Growing up with her I was never truly conscious of her disability. Along with other people, this movie is a gift to her and her parents.
Ethan is a Martyr of the fight against police brutality.
The events leading up to Ethan's death resemble a perfect storm.
Trying to remove the emotion from my opinions after reading the witness reports is impossible. I am walking a line in deciding the direction of the movie. There is so much evidence pointing toward abuse, negligence and discrimination that it is unavoidable to conclude his death would have been prevented had those officers had ANY training at all. My focus remains to create a property of education and a tool for change. It seems like every day something else is brought to light illuminating that it is time for change.
Fingers have been pointed in all directions but the fact remains that removing Ethan's aid from the situation not only transfers responsibility of Ethan's well being to the officers it prevented Ethan the opportunity to understand the situation therefore creating a scenario designed for failure. If the intention was ever to resolve the conflict peacefully, why would any of those officers believe they would be able to effectively communicate with a person possessing an intellectual disability? and Why would one officer be overheard saying “Guess we’re gonna have to call the boys”? Had the situation escalated to the point in which they needed “back up” before they even spoke with Ethan?
Whatever their logic, the answer is ultimately reduced to pride. The first thing taught in the Montgomery County C.I.T. (Crisis Intervention Training) program is to defer to the care giver when resolving conflicts with individuals having special needs. Had Mary been allowed to just give Ethan a hug she would have had him rapped around her little finger as usual.
My heart goes out to her and the consequence this incident has had on her life. The trauma of this incident has taken the life of one person and completely altered forever the lives of so many others.
Ethan’s love of Law Enforcement sets an ironic tone to this tragedy. Had the Frederick County Sheriffs Department responded to any of the invitations to participate in the C.I.T. program, it is possible that Ethan would have seen his 28th birthday.
This and so many other reasons are why this training must be made mandatory. Aside from the common sense logic, the issue of liability is also raised. In a similar incident in Montgomery County two officers that acted with excessive force were treated differently in a judicial setting. The officer that had completed the training had a more severe consequence than his partner who had not participated in the program. The reason is simple; the one officer should have known how to better diffuse the situation.
This raises the question but alludes to the reason why none of the officers involved with Ethan’s death face any reprimand or criminal charge even though his death was concluded a homicide.
Recently it seems like everyday a story breaks about police taking advantage of their position. I personally have met and know policemen that are examples of the “good guys” Ethan was so passionately in love with.
However it is evident that there needs to be better accountability, training and screening procedures for people in law enforcement.
Today we are almost half way to our goal on Kickstarter and with a little over 30days to go I am confident we will gain the support to reach that goal. Unfortunately new costs have presented themselves and we need your help more than ever. The two most important things about making a movie are the images and the sound. It is imperative that we be able to hire an audio mixer to handle some of our interviews. If anyone knows any production professionals that would be willing to donate their time please contact me through the Kickstarter page.
- Edward Rhodes