Holly Robinson Peete wants police to know Autistic Lives Matter, too

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On a recent episode of the OWN network’s For Peete’s SakeHolly Robinson Peete hosted a town hall that was meant to bring together the special needs community and the law enforcement community.

In particular, the town hall was inspired by the need to act after the shooting of Charles Kinsey, a black mental health therapist who was shot by Miami Police while he tried to help his autistic patient. Peete, who has an autistic son, saw that headline and knew she needed to act.

“I just wanted to demonstrate what happens when you sit down, come together and talk about the issues. I also wanted to provide a platform to discuss solutions. When I heard about Charles Kinsey’s case it paralyzed me; it literally shut me down. We were on vacation at the time and I would not leave my room for days,” Peete told NBC BLK.

“Any one of the recent [deadly police-involved shooting] cases have bothered me, but this one really hit home. This was out … indefensible; they shot him with his hands clearly raised high in the air. And the officers’ excuse was, ‘we were aiming for the boy with Autism.’ That is bad enough, but if so why did you shoot [Kinsey], handcuff him and never offer any medical aid? That situation should have been deescalated and those officers should have walked that young man back to his group home.

“If you have a special needs kid, a kid with autism, who are we supposed to call [for help]? If we can’t call the police, then we need to know that. I can’t imagine that the only option has got to be to just kill someone; there’s got to be another way,” she added.

“What happened to that friendly officer who used to talk you down off the ledge? We put together the town hall because we wanted to come up with solutions.”

As for possible solutions, Peete had this suggestion:

Most officers have had little or no autism training or know about how it presents itself; things like flapping of the arms, no eye contact or delayed processing of verbal commands can be easily viewed as noncompliance.

I am working on putting forth legislation; getting autism training for law enforcement and things like having autism added to driver’s licenses. We’re calling it “RJ’s Law” and I am doing it in honor of my son, not in memory of my son. We want autism training for law enforcement and things like having autism added to driver’s licenses.